High School Reunion

After graduating from college I discovered just how much I had to learn. Each year I realize that there’s even more things for me to discover. Then I read a letter like this one from Louie and I have to remember how much I do know, and how little everybody else knows about my dad, Louie. When I read his letter, this one or any of the others, there is a wealth of background only a select few people know about. I hope to my little commentary to each letter to help you understand the depth of Louie’s life.



Judy, the kids, and I joined Louie at the reunion he discusses in this letter. We were lucky enough to get there in time to go over to the old house with him and snap this picture. He was a giddy old man when we were at the house. I can see it in his eyes. He not only told the story in this letter, he told it at the reunion several times, and re-lived it several times with the family.

One of the things you probably don’t know is that Louie’s next older brother’s name: Bob. When Louie tells Bob about his new pocket knife, I know it was a really big deal. In a later letter you will read about the awe Louie held Bob in, almost to the point of costing Louie his life.

In person Louie expanded on the story a little, explaining why the initials on the side of the house weren’t his name (Donald), and weren’t exactly his initials (DLH). While he went by the name Louie from high school on, his given and childhood name was Don. That’s what he started carving into the siding. At that point he didn’t know how difficult it was to carve letters into wood. So after a couple of letters (D and O), he changed the plan from his name to his initials. He didn’t have the words to describe it then, but I suspect there was a little ADHD going on that encouraged a shortened signature. Too bad he didn’t make the change soon enough to get the letters right.

As I recall, there was a punishment involved after his dad, Louis, discovered the carving. I smile now when the thought crosses my mind, but the details escape my memory.

Some years after Louie’s funeral we stopped by the house again to get a better picture of the DOH, but the house had been re-sided by then. I guess that’s understandable after sixty years of North Dakota weather.

Reading these stories and thinking about my Dad Louie makes my day.

Grandpa Guy Havelick


Louie writes:

On the Fourth of July weekend of 1991 I was in Jamestown, North Dakota to attend a reunion of our 1946 high school graduation class. It had been 45 years since I graduated and sure looked forward to seeing some of those (kids), now older folks.

I had some time to spare when I got to Jamestown so I went down to the west end of town, my old stomping ground and looked around.

Found the “Tin Can Alley” where my folks’ house still stood. It had been redecorated on the inside but the outside was still like it was 60 years earlier. The one thing I look for or some hand cut initials on the side of the house.

When I was just six years old my dad give me a pocket knife. I knew at the time I was really growing up: “Bob, my own pocket knife!”

One of the first things I did with it, besides almost cutting off a finger, was to carve my initials in the side of the house.

When I was there in 1991, I found them still on the side of the house covered with many coats of paint, but still there.

Funny thing about this one is instead of carving “DON,” I had neatly carved “DOH.” After 57 years they were still there. Kinda had a little tear in my eye when I seen that. Kind of makes your day, eh?

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European Football

In this letter, Louie mentions an upcoming high school reunion. It turns out that we joined Louie at the reunion and met some of his high school buddies. All of us had a great time getting acquainted.

Louie in Holland c 1968

Louie in Holland c 1968

Years later, one of them also came to his funeral where we had another chance to share stories and laughs about Louie’s escapades. After the funeral, we brought out Louie’s football play book from their senior year as Jamestown High School Football Blue Jays. It had diagrams of their plays and a detailed record of every one of the games that led to the state championship, including who carried the ball on every play. Louie was quite proud of their record that year, his part on the team, and the book. Louie’s buddy had played on the same team and was very impressed that the book still existed. I gave him the book. I do wish I had taken pictures of the contents.

Louie and I had the same physical education teacher in high school. Ernie Gates taught PE and coached the football team. In the forties, Louie was a star athlete and football player. By the time I got to high school in the sixties, let’s just say that I wasn’t exactly a star. Had it been possible to flunk out of PE, maybe I should have. Climb a rope? Nope. Push-ups? One or three. Catch a ball. You’ve got to be kidding! Ernie was disappointed. Louie wasn’t.

Football was Louie’s ticket to college, and I didn’t even want to go watch a game. I was more interested in watching girls than whatever happened on the field. By the time I was a senior, I didn’t even go to the game, I’d just pick Cathy up after the band finished their half-time show.

When Louie wrote this letter in the nineties, our son Lon was active in a local soccer league, which caught Louie’s attention. Maybe he thought Lon would turn out the be the athlete I wasn’t?

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Louie writes:

The Rochester Havelick’s:

Glad you accepted the first three stories. I will keep them coming until CRS catches up.

My tulips finally bloomed and they are gorgeous. My next door neighbor and I are going to put in the slanting brick edges for a flower bed and load it up. Got to have something to tinker with.

My check up at the vets hospital in Sturgis, South Dakota ended up with me getting another check on 4 June. I may end up a “Lightning Bug” but gotta get it done. It is the Sigmoidoscopy. Hell of a long word for light up your butt. Will let you know what the results of the test are.

Lon, I tried European football while I was living in Rotterdam, Holland. We call it soccer. It was a little too rough for me and the Dutchmen almost lost the game laughing at me. So I stuck with going to the zoo and museums.

I will be in Jamestown on the 4th through 7th of July this year for the 45th reunion of our graduating class. It has been some time and water over the bridge since 1946. I have reservations at the Gladstone for those days.

Better get back to story time.

This old man loves you people.


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A Dog is a Dog

Louie grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota. In the 1940 census there were 8,790 residents, what I’d call a small town. Small towns have advantages over cities like Rochester, Minnesota, where I now live. Well over 100,000 people call Rochester home.

Louie's little sister Dorothy

Louie’s little sister Dorothy

Two points in Louie’s story jump out at me. First is his plan to explore the “outside the neighborhood.” Even in the fifties and sixties when I was growing up, exploring large swathes of town wasn’t out of the ordinary. My friends and I would ride bikes ten miles to go swimming. We’ roam around downtown for hours, waiting for the North-Coast-Limited high-speed passenger train to come in to the depot. Ten-year-old kids don’t do that anymore.

Nor do they tie sisters to a telephone pole and leave. I can imagine the television coverage that sort of event would get today. There’s be peace officers, fire trucks, and a dozen emergency vehicles in the ‘hood tracking down the perpetrators. Louie got off with another paddling.

The differences in life style for town boys, fifty and a hundred years ago, when compared to today … How would I compare them? We’re lucky to have some of Louie’s stories around to remind us of life in the 1930’s. What was life like for his father and grandfather? I don’t have anything from my grandfather, and just a few stories. Even Louie’s letters barely mention his father, Louis.

The curtain of obscurity comes down quickly.

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Louie writes:

When I was at the age of around 6 my folks had obtained a dog, what kind it was is unknown to me. At that age, a dog is a dog, not some fancy breed name.

It has been so long ago that I don’t remember what the dog’s name was.

Anyway, the dog was true blue, when it comes to obeying me. Continue reading

Visiting Relatives in Wisconsin

Louie’s first story reminds me that our lives are similar, but unique. We both grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, with our childhoods spent near the steam-powered railroad. In this story, Louie talks about trying to take the train to visit his relatives.

Goose at station

Gas electric locomotive – “Goose”

My parallel story involves the same train, the Galloping Goose. These little gasoline powered motor coaches carried mail, passengers, freight, and milk to the small towns near Jamestown. My uncle and aunt lived in one of those little towns, Pettibone. When I was ten or eleven I’d take the Goose to Pettibone to spend a week with my cousins in the country.

The uniqueness of my story, compared to Louie’s, is that I got to visit the relatives. He didn’t. The other unique feature stands out compared to my children’s and grandchildren’s lives. Louie got his butt whipped.
I may have paddled my kids once? Maybe twice, or maybe never. It just didn’t happen. Did the difference in discipline make a difference in how he and I turned out?

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Louie writes:

When I was the ripe old age of around 6, I had a good idea that it would be nice to visit some of relatives in Wisconsin.

I went to the railroad depot and got on board what was called the “Gallopin’ Goose.” It was actually a gasoline driven locomotive that they used on one of the branch lines going just north of Jamestown only traveling about 75 miles.

The conductor wanted to know where I was going and asked for my ticket. Not having a ticket started the trouble. The conductor tried to take me off the train. I started to rant and rave, it did cause quite a commotion. Continue reading

Starting School

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.

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.
Grandpa Guy Havelick


Originally published 2014-10-13
Updated 2017-02-01

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

This is the start …

Louie wrote this letter in 1991. Since then, I’ve become a grandfather several times over. That perspective changed how I viewed Louie’s story. When my kids were little, they wouldn’t have gotten out of my sight. Now that number five is toddling around, I tend to be a little more lenient.

The primary contributor to that change is an increase in patience. A friend of mine stopped by the other day and told a story about his granddaughter. He had biked with her the previous weekend. She wanted to ride through a big puddle on the bike trail. Before we retired, before there were several grandchildren, both Ron and I would have said, “No way!” The kid would have gotten dirty, muddy, and mamma would have raised a fuss. Now the granddaughter wants to ride through the puddle again. And again.

Grandpa Frandsen

Grandpa Frandsen

What did my buddy do? Rode through the puddle again and again, until she tired of the splashing. That would be a lot of splashing. In retirement, like Grandpa Frandsen, we don’t have to get home to fix a toilet, there isn’t a problem at work that needs attention, the pressures of life have somewhat dissipated.

I can imagine the glee that Grandpa Frandsen felt as he watched little Louie ride off on the trike. He didn’t have to deal with the consequences. Mamma could handle it.

Sometimes I’ve wondered about the truth behind Louie’s stories. Some of them are a little far-fetched. Then I found the newspaper clippings describing his trike episode. You can see it at the bottom of this post. I can imagine that Mamma was perturbed.

Maybe someone can help me remember just where Pittsburgh Avenue and Nupen’s elevator were in Jamestown?

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Louie writes:

This is the start of an autobiography of which I was instructed to complete or suffer some kind of horrible fate such as take away my coffee.

As per instructions, I start with my birth. It is said that I knew that this world I was about to enter was not going to be all sugar and spice – so – I came in breach. That is like telling the world to kiss my foot. I have arrived. Continue reading

From the USS Fremont to a Cadillac – 1953

Jim starts his life story in the middle. Can you point to one incident in your life that everything else turns around? For me, it was something as simple as getting off an elevator in Sevrinson Hall in 1970. There was before, and there was after. Jim had the same kind of experience, in the back seat of a 1953 Cadillac. Jim starts his letters with the story of life’s cusp.

USS Fremont - Bridge crew - September 1953 -

USS Fremont – Bridge crew – September 1953

In the fall of 1953 Jim’s life was changing. He had spent more than ten years in the Navy, first during the war against the Japanese in the South Pacific, and then on more mundane duty stat-side and cruising the Mediterranean Sea. Soon, life would change from military to civilian, years after most WWII veterans had made the move. After being born in North Dakota, he moved East as a child. Now, in 1953 he was preparing to move back to Dakota for an adult life.

Growing up in Massachusetts and spending a decade in the Navy made an indelible imprint on Jim. He never lost the genteel nature that reminded me of Boston. He always used the slang of a Navy man. North Dakota blood flowed in his veins. The next fifty or so letters show all the traits that made him a fascinating character.

In this photo of the USS Fremont bridge crew, taken just before the events in the letter below, Jim is third from the right in the front row.

Grandpa Guy Havelick


Originally published 2014-10-06
Updated 2017-01-31


Jim writes:

The USS Fremont (APA44) docked at NOB (Naval Operations Base) Norfolk, Va. after an 8 month cruise of the Mediterranean and its seaports. After the long months and confining spaces aboard ship I was more than anxious to get off, therefore I took 30 days annual leave. There were three modes of transportation available to me … Bus, Pane and train … but I decided, with some doubts and trepidation, to hitch-hike … from Norfolk to No. Dak!

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Indians on the Dawson Trail

Kunkle House

Kunkle House

There’s something special about meeting someone nice for the first time. If that spark is in the air, you want to know everything about the other person. By the end of the evening you know all sorts of things about the new someone. Those stories become the foundation for a new, wonderful, relationship.

That sharing of stories didn’t happen between my mother and me until I was over forty years old. So many things seemed more important for those first forty years. I needed my allowance a day early, or it was time to get a driver’s license, or my own life filled my brain. Then I met Judy and stories about the past no longer mattered. Stories about Judy became my goal.

Since Grace died twenty years ago we’ve visited the Kunkel farm where she grew up a couple of times, and I’ve often visited the Fairview Cemetery where she’s buried. In the summer of 2015 the extended family gathered at the Luehr plots in Fairview to bury Grace’s older sister. The wind blew off our hats, and swept our words onto the wheat fields. Grace and her parents experienced that same wind, on those same hills in the first half of the twentieth century.

As much as the climate was similar, just about everything else was different.
Grandpa Guy Havelick


Grace writes:

To my four dear sons, their wives + children,

I want to start this story with some events that shaped my life before I was born

The story I’m enclosing was told to my sister-in-law Elaine. It’s about the farm where we lived in Buckeye township south of Lake Williams, North Dakota. Continue reading

Lucy’s Letters – Into the Good Life, the Hard Way

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?
Grandpa Guy Havelick


Originally published 2014-09-29
Updated 2017-02-01

Lucy writes:



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.

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Guy’s Letters – Starting with the Pink House

The first house that I remember was a little pink bungalow in Jamestown along the James River. 455 3rd Street SW to be exact.

455 3rd St SW house-001

Front view of the Pink House.

To get to the master bedroom, you had to walk through the bathroom. In my youngest years the furnace burned North Dakota lignite. Not only was the furnace fired with lignite, but so was the water heater! It was a cute little thing, kind of like a Franklin stove with many pipes running back and forth inside. Grandma had to light the fire to get hot water.

On the west side of the house was the alley, and that had the coal chute to the coal bin. What a dirty mess! Weyerhaeuser Lumber delivered the lignite. They had a large yard down by the railroad depot with several buildings full of coal. They were right underneath the railroad, just south of the tracks. Apparently the hopper cars could drop the coal directly into the buildings.

My mother was an incredible gardener, and along the river was the perfect place to raise flowers and a vegetable garden. The front and back yards were full of iris, tulips, zinnias and who knows what else. My favorites were the tiger lilies with their orange blossoms and black seeds growing in the leaves. Besides having flowers, my parents planted a bathtub one summer to hold gold-fish. By the end of the summer the fish seemed pretty big to my eight year old eyes. Maybe that pond is why my brother Linn and I have back yard ponds today?

The property was split in half by the chicken house, where we kept rabbits. (Don’t ask.) The chicken house was a very large building. (It seemed that way to an eight year old.) There were cages for hundreds (it seemed like hundreds) of rabbits that my grandmother raised for meat.

We always had a cat in the house. One of them helped me get into trouble. Once after a snow storm, I was shoveling the porch by the French doors in the dining room. The cat was watching me through the panes of glass. It likes to play with the cat, so I feigned hitting him with the shovel. Too bad there was glass between the shovel and the cat.

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