Farm house where Lucy grew up.
From the time I knew Lucy until she left us in 2008 music was the important theme in her life. She was always part of the church choir and other activities. In this letter Lucy talks about riding to school in a horse-drawn buggy. Music plays a key role in the story. One of her earlier letters also described riding to school with her brother and sister, and this story adds to the drama.
There are so many comparisons we could make between today and ninety years ago. They had dirt roads, horse power, mud, boarders … my grand children have none of those challenges. As I write this, two of the grand kids are sitting on the couch playing with iPads. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
At least they seem to love music as much as Grandma Lucy did.
My folks always took in High School students during those depression years, if they couldn’t finish high school. After Alice + Lewellyn finished school whoever was staying with us would drive the horses. Now George Beardsley was that man. He would always remark about how spoiled we were. He came from a very poor humble home so living with us was a real treat for him.
When Lucy wrote these letters in 1991, she was still living in Fargo. We had various traditions then; sometimes we would drive to Fargo with a car full of kids and Christmas gifts, sometimes she would take the bus or airplane to Rochester. Either way, the celebration would be tons of fun.
In the fifties holiday trips were a little shorter. They were a big deal, not that frequent, but just as celebratory. For Lucy and her family the trip was twenty-some miles from Fargo to Gardner, ND. On a recent trip to Fargo, we thought it would be nice to see what Gardner looked like now. We made the trip between lunch and coffee, never got out of the car, and thought nothing of it.
As a nine-year-old kid, when we made the hour-long trip to Pettibone to visit my Aunt and Uncle, it was a huge deal. We’d pack the car and make all sorts of plans for the day long adventure. That same sense of adventure probably pervaded Lucy’s trips to Gardner to see the family for a holiday dinner.
It’s Nov 16, 1991, almost Thanksgiving time. Now that meant Grandma + Grandpa’s house. Mother Thurlow was almost child-like at holidays. She’d cook a big turkey, have every one’s favorite pie, home made buns and what a cook. She could take a cheap roast and make it taste so good. My Judy was always special to them, they loved her so. She never walked from the car to the garage until she was too heavy for Grandpa. When he’d come to Fargo for parts, he’d stop in and it didn’t matter if she was sleeping or not – he’d pick her up + love her. Continue reading
The last couple of weeks I’ve written about music. Lucy is one of the people in my life who epitomizes musical talent. When I first met her she sang with the Fargo Sweet Adelines. In the many years she sang with them she was part of multiple quartets and performed around the country. One of her personal triumphs was the trip the Fargo chorus made to England. Many times Lucy told me about the “little girl from Gardner, ND who sang in Royal Albert Hall in London.
Lucy’s love of and talent for music caught on with Judy, too. For years she sang with the Rochester chapter of Sweet Adelines and the church choir. Her highlight was singing Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The Rochester Chamber Chorale performed the piece again this year and we attended the concert. What a thrill it must have been to sing at such a beautiful event. These days Judy plays drum and sings with a local band called Ravensfire. A bodhrán is far easier to transport than a tuba.
Watch for letters about Lucy’s adventures with the Sweet Adelines.
Thirteen was a magical year for me. We left the farm. The day we left I looked out the door and made a vow to myself “Never never have anything to do with a farmer!!” Continue reading
Don’t be misled by the title and first sentence of this letter from Lucy. There’s almost nothing in there about graduation. This is a love story.
After reading this story I better understand why Lucy let me call or come over to see Judy every night after we met. She and Ken were as smitten with each other as Judy and I were.
My favorite part of this letter is the fudge. Does every couple have a story about a dessert going bad that first summer of marriage? For Lucy, it’s fudge. For Judy it was chocolate cake. Our lives are full of stories. This one brings back a smile.
Graduating from High School was nice but what to do next was the question.
One evening the next winter I went to a basketball game with Evy my friend. I saw a man across the hall sitting by my brother. I said “That is the most handsome man I have ever seen. If he isn’t married he’s mine.” He said to Pat “Who’s that pretty girl in the white sweater set?”
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.
Lucy’s in the back row, far right, with the Tuba
In this letter, Lucy recalls high school as being a happy time for her. Both Judy and I have fond memories of high school, too. There’s something special about not having any real responsibilities to keep you awake at night. The most vexing part of school might be the boyfriend / girlfriend issues. In Lucy’s case, it was Hubert. For me there were a couple of good friends who happened to be girls, and one very special girlfriend. Those were happy days.
We enjoyed our high school days, but there’s something even better. Your own children in high school. There’s a certain vicarious pleasure in hosting the various parties and dinners for the kids. Judy and I were able to blend in with the wallpaper as the kids partied, laughed, and had their nervous conversations with their dates. They were so full of energy and eagerness.
Now we are waiting for the grand children to start the high school days. It’s only ten more years or so.
In high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors were all in one room. I guess my high school years were about the happiest time of my young years.
Each year we would go to Casselton and have relay races, basketball throw, potato races, (potatoes would be spread and you picked them up one at a time and take them to home base), high jump was my best, because of my long legs I guess.
Even today I love visiting people, especially those who have a different life style than I. That seems to be the case with Lucy visiting her friend Dorothy when she was twelve. At that age I would get on the train (lovingly called the Galloping Goose) and go to Pettibone to visit my Aunt Elaine and Uncle Henry. Pettibone was a tiny town, Henry had a huge and wonderful shop, and a yard full of worn out construction equipment. The smell of grease and engine oil always take me back to that shop.
In this letter Lucy reminds us that memories of visits like these make a lasting impression. Let’s go back to that time now.
When I was twelve I was head and shoulders taller than any of the girls in our class. I sang with Dorothy Waterfall, the shortest girl in our room.
Going to Waterfalls was such fun. In summer they had a real tent (not a blanket over a clothes line) and also had real food in their cupboards. They had cots in the tent and would sleep out there.
I remember trauma on the first day of school, too. In her first letter, Lucy describes her first day of school, and she implies that there could have been tears. I’ll bet that Lucy’s mother had trouble on the first day of school, too, as her daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter all had great reluctance to start school.
Mara (center) on the first day of school in 1986.
When our daughter started, she was not a little reluctant to get on the bus for school. Her brother was four years older, so we thought he could help her navigate the bus and getting into her classroom. That plan worked perfectly until Lon saw one of his friends as he got off the bus. Mara was left alone, scared and wondering where to go. Not a good start.
There was excitement on my first day of school, too. I don’t remember being scared or worried, mostly looking forward to it. One of my best friends that summer had been our neighbor Ray. We started in the same room for first grade in Franklin School in Jamestown. Ray did not like being left alone with all those strange kids, so he made a fuss. Such a fuss that his mother couldn’t leave. She sat in the back, in the cloak room, for the morning.
We’re all a little afraid of something. It helps to have someone along to allay that fear.
At least I didn’t have to bake stones in the oven to keep my feet warm on the way to school.
Originally published 2014-10-13
Lucy writes …
Going to school was a major step for me as I was so shy – of course the first grade meant singing a solo at a program. Our teacher was Miss Niblock and I really loved her. When my Dad took me the first day, telling the teacher “Don’t hurt her feelings or she won’t stop crying until she sees her mother”. Continue reading
Lucy was born on a farm about a hundred years ago. In this, the first of the letters Judy’s mother Lucy wrote to me in 1991, she shares her earliest memories of growing up on a farm near Gardner, ND.
Two things stand out for me in this letter. First is her description of walking around in the farmyard, feeding chickens. A hundred years after she fed those chickens there is a national debate about how to raise chickens, most loudly argued by those in favor of “free-range” birds, just like those in Gardner.
The second is Lucy’s handwriting. Longhand. My grade school teachers tried to teach me to write longhand, using the Palmer Method. They failed. I couldn’t learn to write neatly. Never did. Typing was my forte. Lucy wrote beautifully, and her daughter Judy’s hand writing is even more incredible. The Palmer Method of handwriting is no longer taught. How long will it be until Lucy’s letters are illegible in their original form? Do you have as much trouble reading the letter below as I do? Handwritten letters from the 1800’s are difficult to read, and it’s even worse for those written a hundred years before that.
How long will it be until even the words I’m writing today are illegible?
Originally published 2014-09-29
Memories – My earliest memories are of life on the farm – I remember walking in the yard with my mother and being given a little pail with wheat in it – she also had a pail and we would feed the chickens, they would come so close to us we would have to bat them out of the way. She would put her hands under them on the nest – I thought “Even the chickens love my Mom.”
Play things were orange boxes with a divider in the middle for a cupboard and it could hold colored stones. (Yes Lon -I even liked stones when I was small.) Mud pies made of water and dirt-graced the shelves.