Horse and Buggy

Farm house where Lucy grew up. Gardner ND

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.

Lucy writes:

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.

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Holidays at Grandma’s

Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

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.

Lucy writes:

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

Leaving the farm

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.

TubaLucy’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.

Lucy writes:

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

High School Graduation

Lucy

Lucy

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.

Lucy writes:

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?”

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Summer Jobs

Dirty_dishesManual 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.

Lucy Writes:

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.

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High School

Lucy's in the back row with the Tuba. Gardner High School, 1936.

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.

Lucy writes:

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.

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Waterfalls

Three_year_old_girl_riding_an_Arabian_horseEven 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.

Lucy writes:

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.

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