What was your day and date of birth?
Wednesday, August 3rd, 1917.
Where were you born?
In our farm home 31/2 miles south of Little Falls, birth assisted by mid-wife, Bessie Bednark (no doctor present). Home and farm buildings built by my father.
Do you know of any other circumstances of your birth?
Delivery was normal. Brothers and sister, Carlyle and Norma, ages 4 and 2 were there. Father was working on building the barn.
Name your brothers and sisters and their years of birth:
Carlyle Born April 19, 1913
Norma Born June 10, 1916
Harold Born Aug. 3, 1917
Alice Born Dec. 13, 1919
Betty Born 1921
Mildred Born 1924
Phyllis Born 1932
What was your mother's full name?
Clara Marie Jensen
What was your father's full name?
George Osea Hammerbeck
What was your mother's date and place of birth?
July 13, 1894 in Spirit Lake, Iowa
What was your father's date and place of birth?
January 26, 1884 in Varmland, Sweden
Tell a family nickname that you had.
How did you get it?
Childhood teasing; intentionally trying to get you "mad" or to be-little you.
Tell of any other nicknames in your family.
I was called "slug" in high school because of making slugs for slot-machines. Ed Viner used to tell my brother, "Put the Hammerbeck in the Carlyle." Nicknames were not frequently used in those days.
What did your father do for a living?
Farmed; built homes and farm buildings. Later on (when he was about 45-50 years old) he became an Emergency Relief administrator and state weed and seed Inspector.
Name the towns you lived in before you were 20.
Little Falls and Randall.
Name the childhood address you remember.
Route #1, Randall, Route #3, Little Falls
Describe your childhood home & neighborhood.
My childhood home from age 4 to 16 was on a farm 41/2 miles west of Randall. It was 240 acres with about 60 acres of fields and the rest forests, meadows and swamps. There were eight huge white pines around our house and a raspberry patch, garden and hardwood forest behind our house. A horse barn, cow barn, chicken house, granary, machine shed, and brick smokehouse made up the buildings. Oh!, yes, there was an outhouse. There was no electricity or running water. Our horses kept the lawn "mowed."
Tell a fond memory of your Grandpa.
Grandpa Jensen raised pigeons, guinea hens, horses and cattle on his farm on the river road South of Little Falls. He also had a fruit orchard with plums that were delicious. They always had a hammock under the huge boxelders beside their brick house. A raspberry patch in a grove housed rabbits and guinea hens.
Tell a fond memory of your Grandma.
Grandma Hammerbeck could not speak English and was frail and weak so I, when I was six years old, had to help her to and from the "outhouse" and wait outside (in the cold Winter) while she completed her "toilet" then lead her back to the house. Grandma Jensen always had my favorite "sugar cookies" which she would reward me with when I gathered eggs, brought in stove wood and hauled dishes. She died of diabetes the year of her 50th wedding celebration.
Tell about a favorite Aunt.
Aunt Ellen, my father's youngest sister who lived with our families - my Uncle Sam, Aunty Olga, and Kate. She was always happiest with little children (she was unmarried and none of her own) so she always loved to have our family around to shower with her friendly love and words of encouragement.
Tell about a favorite Uncle.
Uncle Adolph, a world traveler on a steamer that plied the Orient, came to live with us the Winters of 1928-29-30 and taught me about radios, electricity (we built an electric motor from tinker toys and a horse-shoe magnet). I loved to visit him when he had a radio repair shop the Winter of 1930 on East Broadway in Little Falls. He was a very smart man and taught me much in mathematics, science and electronics.
Did any relatives live with you?
Yes, Uncle Adolph (see previous entry). His ship was captured in China by Germans in World War I and he changed his name to Homer Bach so he'd pass as a German and they didn't take him prisoner. He came to America in 1927 and married an English noble-woman we knew as "Aunt Marfs." She didn't like Minnesota winters so went back to British Columbia and Uncle Adolph (Al) followed next year (1931).
Did you ever have an imaginary friend?
I can't ever recall having an imaginary friend but I do recall a "boogie-man" who lived under my bed and never did anything but scare me into inventing a lamp-lighter that my mother could pull a string from the heat register downstairs and light the lamp in my room before I got out of bed. I was 7 years old then.
When did you need punishment as a child, which parent corrected you?
My dad always gave us kids "whalings" on our bare back sides with the flat of his hand and it hurt even more when you put your hand back there to ease the slaps. He never used a strap or sticks but often threatened us with the razor strap.
What type of punishment was dealt you?
Previous entry tells it pretty well but I do remember us kids being sent to bed without supper when we were naughty but my mother would sneak a tray of food to us later on, mostly because of her special attention and love meant we were forgiven for being naughty. She once broke the handle of a brand new broom when she chased me through a door with the broom crossways.
Tell about the naughtiest thing you ever did.
I made a little cross-bow with an arrow that had a pin on the nose and fired it at a cat and the pin stuck squarely in his back and he yowled long and loud. I once lured a neighbor boy on the way to school to play follow the leader and pretended I stepped on thin ice in a ditch and the boy got all wet when he fell through.
If you got caught, describe the consequences.
Spankings were always the consequences for being naughty and many times were followed with "go to bed and don't come down till morning." (And no supper). Sometimes, when we kids quarreled my dad would place us on two chairs facing each other and "don't move till I tell you to!"
Relate an experience or memory of a cousin.
Cousin Edward Hammerbeck, from the city of Duluth, loved our farm and enjoyed helping with chores, milking cows and we would sleep in the hay-mow on the fresh good-smelling new hay. It seemed twice as enjoyable when we could hear rain on the barn roof and the big hay-door was open.
Did your mother work outside the home?
Never! There was never time on the farm for anything but work from dawn to dark making bread and butter, hand washing clothes, mending, keeping the kitchen and living room stoves supplied with wood, making beds, canning meat and vegetables, helping with milking, gathering eggs, hauling water, throwing out slop water, preparing three meals a day for eight people, cleaning lamp chimneys, and trimming wicks, getting kids off to school, etc., etc..
What did you and your brothers or sisters fight about most?
Who gets to sit on the outside of the car; who gets the biggest piece of cake or pie; who washes and wipes the dishes; who sweeps the floor; who hauls water and slop; who empties the pots (under the beds); who's first in the bath water; who is looking "mean" at who; who "touched me" and who "made a face" at who.
What was the dumbest stunt ever pulled by you and your brother or sister?
When we "discovered" how much fun it was to "swim in the grain" in the grainery (without any clothes on!). Another time we went to our "water-hole" way deep in the woods and got drenched in a cloud-burst cause it "looked like rain" according to our mother.
Tell about the worst winter storm that you remember as a child.
January 1927 - We were at country school a mile and a half away and a raging blizzard came up so we had to stay at the school `till the men-folks could get horses with sleighs through to pick us up. They had bricks along to heat on the wood stove to keep us warm under buffalo robes and blankets on hay in the beds of the sleighs. Often times the men had to shovel the horses out of the drifts.
What did you use to go sledding down a hill in the snow?
We had home-made wooden sleds with steel straps for runners. We also used cardboard and canvas from grain-binders to slide on. Once in a while some richer neighbors kids showed up with "Flexible Flyers," steel runnered sleds with wood slat floors that you could run with to gain speed then jump on them for extra down hill distance.
What extras did you use for your snowman's face, buttons, arms, hat, etc.?
We always managed to find a corn cob or crooked stemmed tobacco pipe plus chunks of coal for eyes and a corn cob nose topped off with an old felt or straw hat. Ears were sometimes from hogs we had butchered and arms and hands were from tops of white ash (which gave four fingers).
Tell of someone you envied, and why.
Our neighbor got a new 1927 Hudson car that had windows that could be cranked up and down and a heater on the exhaust pipe running under the floor. Very few people had cars with flopping side curtains which didn't do much to keep the wind, rain and snow out and there were no heaters or self starters. You always cranked cars to start them and some one always managed to get a broken arm `cause they didn't adjust the spark and throttle just right.
Do you remember the first movie you ever saw and who starred in it?
Fu Manchu in 1929. I went with my mother. Don't remember who acted in it but it was the first "talkie ever shown in Little Falls and I remember Fu Manchu plunging a dagger down towards his victim and saying, "Say your prayers, white man!"
What was your favorite meal as a child?
Pancakes with home-made sour-cream butter and home-made maple syrup. I always liked bread-pudding (which I called "wash-day food" because my mother made it on Monday, which was wash-day.
What were you doing to first smash a finger?
My sister, Norma, and I were watching the pump-jack gears when she was four. It tickled the fingers when you held them against the spinning gears. Norma got too close and ran her fingers between the gears and I tried to show my mother how it happened and ran my fingers through the gears also. We both lost our finger nails when they turned black and were very painful.
Who was the most famous person you ever met as a child?
I remember meeting Charles Lindbergh's dad when young Charles was driving him around giving campaign speeches when they went from town to town in their Model "T" Ford and , later, their 1916 Saxon. I was about five or six years old. I also remember accompanying my Uncle Sam to the state capitol and meeting Governor Floyd B. Olson and Mr. Bull (whose statue is in front of the State Capitol).
Tell about a big fib you told.
When we were in grade school (I was six or seven years old) we were supposed to tell the class about a current event of the day. I wasn't prepared so I concocted a story about the Russians building an artificial dog that could run, bark, eat and sleep. I told it so convincingly that every one believed it except the teacher who later bawled me out for lying.
Did you ever hop a freight train? Explain.
No. I never had a desire to leave home or ride a freight train although I often accompanied my Aunt and Uncle and, sometimes, my folks on passage trips from Randall to Little Falls and, sometimes, St. Paul.
Tell of a nickname given to you by friends or classmates.
I could not quite stand the teasing of classmates (in early grade school) so my replies to their taunts was "oh, my!" So they called me "O-My" for a time but not very long. Later, in High School, I and my best friend, Eddie Viner, made lead slugs to play slot machines and I carried the name "slug" for a couple of years in 1932-33.
How did you get the nickname?
The previous entry tells it all. Occasionally my friends would call me "Hammer" and sometimes "Hammerhead" or "Ball Pein" (a type of hammer). Surprisingly, no one ever called me Hal.
Who was your first girlfriend?
I was infatuated in grade school with a girl named Mardell Longley and later went to a house party with her and her friend named Eloise Kempenich. My buddy "stole" Mardell and I ended up with Kempenich (who had very bad breath).
Tell about the Valentine Day festivities at your school.
Valentines day was very special in District 30 in the late 20s and most everybody made home-made valentines. I made it a point to make a different valentine (with a different verse) for each boy and girl in our school (all 18 of them). Some of the richer kids bought "store-made" valentines but there weren't many. We always made the best and most elaborate ones for our teacher.
Tell about a special valentine you once gave.
I made a very special valentine for Mardell. It was a trick one that kept unfolding and each fold had a different word or verse. Very few kids ever signed their valentines but put them in home-made envelopes with just the name of the recipient on them and they tried to guess who they were from. Some were pretty insulting.
Tell about a special valentine you once received.
I don't recall ever receiving a special valentine.
Tell about your first date.
I previously told of my first date, which really wasn't a date but a way that neighbors celebrated and had fun, with a "house party." They would roll up the rug in the living room and set chairs to the side so they could dance in the middle of the room. Some one always showed up who could play the fiddle and concertina and play old time waltzes and 2-steps. Everybody brought a food dish to help with the party and usually there was a big granite pot of coffee and a cooker full of wieners.
Tell about your first kiss.
On my first "date" my girlfriend, whom I met at a house party (after my friend "stole" the date I really wanted) suggested that we go out to the car for fresh air. She immediately kissed me and her breath stunk so bad I could hardly stand it. She wanted to give me a ride home and I couldn't get rid of her. I sure didn't think much of kissing for a long time after that!
Tell about your favorite TV shows.
TV was not yet invented when we kids were little. In fact very few people had radios until the late 20s and early thirties. We often made "crystal sets" using a galend crystal with what was called a "cat-whisker" (thin wire) which was attached to ear-phones. You experimented a lot by poking the tip of the wire around different places on the crystal `till you got faint words or music of a radio station. These were called "Bread Board Sets" (Set on a piece of board with a telephone battery to amplify the sound). Ed Viner and myself demonstrated TV on class night in High School in 1933. The first anyone around here had ever seen. (3" cathode tube)
Tell about family reunions in your childhood.
We usually had a Thanksgiving reunion at my mother's parents home (my maternal grandparents south of Little Falls about two miles on the "River Road"). The whole family (about 20 with children) would gather for the goose and chicken dinner with all the fixings. Us kids always had to wait `till the grown-ups ate, then we got what was left; wings, ribs and back ends. We were required to be very quiet while we waited (little kids must be seen; not heard). I still remember how good the homemade mince meat pie and sugar cookies tasted.
What do you remember as your favorite subject in school?
Arithmetic and Geography.
What do you remember as your least favorite subject in school?
English Literature and Sociology.
What is the biggest problem you remember having in Grade School?
Stomach aches and a kid who always wanted to fight me.
What is the biggest problem you remember having in Jr. High School?
Embarrassment over being a "farm kid" and being left out of parties and "town kid" activities.
What is the biggest problem you remember having in Sr. High School?
Getting a passing grade in English Literature and getting kicked off the football program for getting caught smoking.
Describe a place you liked to go to be alone.
Exploring the water along the Mississippi River banks. Also, climbing high places like the water tower and paper mill chimney.
Tell of a place that you discovered or built as a "haven" for your gang.
I never had such a "gang" or "haven" as such. However, my favorite hang-out was Ed Viner's basement, the farm workshop and Smacker's Pool Hall.
Tell about a favorite "hang out" for you and your friends in Jr. and Sr. High.
Smacker's Pool Hall, the President's Cafe and the Carnegie Library.
Tell about the best pet you ever had.
A pet grey squirrel who used to sit on my shoulders or top of my head and always slept in my overall jacket pocket.
Tell about other pets you had.
A police dog named "Rin" (after the famous movie dog, "Rin-tin-tin). The dog learned to climb trees and could lick every other dog in the neighborhood. He was also extremely smart about herding cattle and catching our "Sunday rooster."
Tell about being in a school play or program.
I played one of the Three Kings in my 1st grade Christmas play and sang "Myrr is mine, it's bitter perfume leads a life of gathering gloom ---." I also gave several "essays" or recitations at the Randall Community Hall and once played a "mystic" in mystery shows along with a very smart neighbor named Joe St. Dennis.
Tell about a school principal you remember.
I remember James Michie best. He was the only high school principal I had. He once ordered Ed Viner and myself out of school after an explosion we had in the chemistry lab. He also ordered me off the football team for smoking.
Did you ever pretend to be sick as an excuse to stay home from school?
No. I always enjoyed school.
Do you have a story about yourself cussing?
There never was any "cussing" allowed in our home when we were growing kids and when I came home on furlough from a year in the Army in Louisiana I had a great problem avoiding "army language" at home.
Tell about how you spent your Saturdays during the school year.
Working! My brother, Carlyle, and I spent week-ends cutting wood to sell and pay for room and board going to High School during the great "Depression." Grade school week-ends we were kept busy with many farm chores; haying, picking corn and potatoes, splitting wood, hauling water and "stomping" clothes.
Tell about how you spent your Sundays.
We kids would get all dressed up and I would drive our Model "T" Ford to Sunday School about three miles away. My parents never went to church when we lived on a farm west of Randall (1924-1935). After Sunday School it was my job to catch and clean a rooster for Sunday dinner and, later, to get ice out of the ice-house and crank a freezer full of delicious ice-cream for Sunday evening.
What was the naughtiest or meanest thing you remember doing in school?
I cannot recall doing naughty or mean things in grade school but I do recall releasing a very stinky chemical in the High School vent system (I think it was called Sulfur Dioxide and smelled like rotten eggs). Ed Viner and I experimented with making rocket powder and explosives and played tricks with sodium (which burns in water).
What were the consequences?
We were suspended from school for three days for an explosion of rocket powder in the chemistry lab. We liked to rig up electrical shock wires on classroom seats and it caused quite a commotion when turned on. We never got caught - but were often suspected. We also strung very fine wire across hallways and would catch teachers and once caught principal Michie. They could never figure out what they ran into `cause the wire would break and disappear.
What was your favorite radio program?
Clellan Card ("Birdie with a yellow bill---"), Fred Waring and his Pennsylvania music on the Longine-Whitmor Hour, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Comedy shows we loved were Fibber Magee and Molly, Jack and Gracie Allen. "Suspense" (Behind the Creaking Door) was our favorite mystery.
What was your favorite movie as a youth? Why?
W.C. Fields movies (Continental Hotel) because of his dry humor. I also liked Fred Astair - Ginger Rogers movies. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movies are also on my list of favorites. I also used to laugh myself sick on some of the early Disney cartoon comedies.
Did kids over tease you? About what?
Not very much. Once in a while the term "hay-seed" or "farmer" was used but really didn't bother me. I always made the point that if it were not for "hay-seed farmers" no one would eat!
Tell of a difficult school essay or term paper assignment.
Once again, I'm reminded of my dislike for ancient English authors and my most difficult assignment was to have to memorize Chaucer using the ancient language of those days or write a review of Milton's "Paradise Lost." I disliked my middle name because of that.
Tell about your first smoke.
Very simple. Us kids used to smoke cigarettes made of corn silk wrapped in dried leaves. We also snitched tobacco occasionally from dad's or hired-man's tobacco caw and smoke it in a home-made corn cob pipe with a wild rice stalk for a stem. We usually ended up somewhat sick and nauseous.
Do you remember your first pizza?
No. Pizza was never invented until us kids were grown up. The nearest thing we ever tasted to pizza was lefse with home made cheese or ground meat sauce (summer sausage without the casing).
If you went to college, tell which college you chose and why.
College costs were way too high for any of us to afford to attend. In 1940 Ed Viner and I visited the University of Minnesota's new science research laboratory where the first atom-smasher (cyclotron) was. We made tentative arrangements to work our way through college as lab helpers but the war came along before we could realize your hopes and dreams.
Tell your major and how you chose it.
My favorite subject was (and still is!) electronic research. I read all I could find about Nickola Tesla, Steinmetz, Einstein, and Thomas Edison. Also, the life of Louis Pasteur (a book titled :The Microbe Hunters"). Ed Viner and I demonstrated microwave cooking and TV on high school class night in 1933. We also worked three years building a million volt Tesla coil which we operated during the mid-30s.
Did people wear green on St. Patrick's Day?
Yes. And they also sang songs about the Irish-English struggle, some of the words still linger in my mind.. "for there's a bloody law agin' the wearing of the green."
Do you have any other memories of St. Patrick's Day as a youth?
Our neighborhood was well populated with Irish immigrants and I remember the St. Dennis's who came to America to homestead a farm near us at the turn of the century (1902). They raised four sons and got them all through college. Then the sons came home to live with them on the farm. One of the oldest was Patrick who built a house that my dad helped with and fell off the roof, knocking him unconscious.
If you ever hitch-hiked, explain.
I hitch-hiked to and from our home near Randall to our high school in Little Falls approximately 40 times. I also hitch-hiked to St. Paul many times to the State Fair and to visit my sisters Norma, Alice and Betty. Hitch-hiking in the 30s was not considered dangerous because people were more trustworthy and helpful.
What do you remember as your favorite time of year? Why?
Spring -- When wild flowers started up in the woods and thickets. We would pick bouquets of May-flowers, daffodils, Trilliums, and buttercup which my Mother put in water and displayed on our dinner table. We also knew where wild onions (leeks) grew and would eat them so we could blow our stinky breath at our classmates. Horse radish was most tender in spring, as was rhubarb (pie-plant). The coming of new leaves on trees was also a delightful event as were hatchings of birds, turkeys and geese.
Describe some household chores you had as a child.
On the farm where we grew up there was no electricity, running water or indoor toilet so some of the household chores included emptying and rinsing the pots (from under he beds), hauling water for the stove reservoir and the stove top boiler on washdays (usually Mondays), splitting and hauling wood for stoves, cleaning out the ashes (we always had an ash pile that the chickens liked to dust their feathers in). We also threw out the slop from under the sink, milked and turned the separator (in the pantry) to get cream (for sale and to make butter). We also gathered eggs, hayed the cows, cleaned the barns of manure, forked in fresh bedding and pumped water for the cattle and horses.
Describe some outdoor chores.
A typical school day chore schedule consisted of getting up at 5:30, milk cows, haul wood (for kitchen and living room stoves), change overalls and walk 11/2 miles to school carrying our lunch in one-gallon syrup pails plus an aluminum can of milk, sometimes with cocoa, for all us kids to share at noon lunch. Home from school, more wood splitting and hauling, milk cows, separate milk, feed the cows, horses, pigs and chickens, gather eggs and in fall picked potatoes and corn and helped butcher beef, pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese. Seasonal work included cutting potatoes for seed, haying, shocking grain and currying horses and some cattle.
Which chore did you dislike the most?
Cleaning the chicken house and hog house. We also disliked having to leave holiday fun (Fourth of July etc. at the lake) to come home and milk the cows (twice a day, seven days a week!).
What bones have you broken and how?
Mostly hand and fingers plus cracked my scull three times -- all caused by carelessness.
Did you ever need stitches?
Yes, quite a few; twice for gashes on my hand and several for cuts on my hands and fingers, plus stitches for 13 surgeries.
Do you have any other good stories about being injured?
I was painfully stunned by a jellyfish while swimming off a beach in North Africa. Lost my memory on three different occasions by injuries to the back of my head. Lost a finger to the power planer in my shop. Had a finger-nail pulled out by the root when it got caught in the drive belt of my drill press.
Tell of a childhood illness.
All of us kids had measles, chicken pox, scarlet fever, mumps, and hepatitis. I suffered many stomach-aches mostly due to nervous tension, worms, and eating questionable foods. Norma and I once got very sick from cracking and eating prune pits and peach or apricot pits. There were very few medicines like aspirin (anti-biotics were unknown) so we often had home remedies: efpoultices, witch-hazel, goose-grease, Epsom salts and quinine and castor oil.
Tell about an experience at the doctor's.
We kids never went to the doctor. The doctor always came to our house. The school in Randall is named after him (Dr. S.G. Knight school). When he came to our home he always left with us feeling that we were going to get well even though very little medicine was given. When fevers got too high we were bathed in a wash tub by the living-room stove, then our chest and necks were swabbed with smelly liniment and goose grease or mentholatum.
Name your best school chums.
Kenneth Hegg, Harris Retsland, and Harold Gutman (in grade school, District 30). Ed Viner, Elliot Kieldegard, Willy Pitt, Chet Peterson and Eddie Chelling were some of my best high school friends.
What were some of the crazy names or nicknames in your school?
There weren't many "crazy" names but quite a few nicknames such as "Toby" (Adolph) Karnowski, "Windy" (Clarence) Posch and the guys named Charlie were almost always called "Chuck." Ed Viner used to tell my brother, "Put the hammer back in the Car, Lyle."
Tell about a practical joke or prank you played on a person.
I was always seeking novelty items to play jokes on friends, such as exploding cigarettes, squirting flowers, stink bombs, the talking toilet, fart pillows, plastic puke, etc.. The one I enjoyed most was welding a screw to a 25 cent piece and screwing it in a crack in the sidewalk, then hide and laugh when someone tried to pick it up. I spent a lot of time rigging up electric shocking seats and hidden wires. There's much to be told on this subject.
Do you have an April Fool's Day story?
I can't recall an exceptional April Fool's story though we did go to a lot of work trying to fool our parents and friends. Most people were very wary of April Fool's jokes in my "growing-up" years so it was difficult to have a really good one that worked.
Tell about a practical joke or prank someone played on you.
My most trusted, true and loved friend (Grandma) put artificial rubber cheese in my sandwich for lunch at work. I almost chewed it up before I realized the joke was on me.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
My first love was to be an aerial pilot and to build my own airplane. My greatest aspiration was to be an electrical research scientist.
Did you make a kite? Tell how.
I made many, many kites from crude newspaper-covered ones with rag tails to huge box-kites almost capable of lifting a person. My best kite was one that looked like a silvery flying saucer. The biggest problem was getting strong enough (and long enough) string.
Tell your experiences with kite flying.
The most exasperating experience is trying to keep a kite from diving when gusts of wind would make it go out of control. My flying saucer kite didn't dive but would climb vertically in the wind to unbelievable heights. Cars would often stop thinking they had spotted a real UFO. I lost many kites in trees and utility lines.
Have you ever hunted, or tried to capture a wild animal?
I've had many experiences catching animals for pets; squirrels, red fox, raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, crows and other wild birds, I once brought a big buck deer in our barn while bringing the dairy cattle in for milking. He charged me so I side-stepped out of the way when he ran out of the barn. I have hunted deer, birds, and wild boar (in Louisiana), but never was very fond of any hunting.
Did you ever try to adopt a wild animal?
Many times. Most animals are easily tamed when caught very young (squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats, raccoons, birds, etc.). Few can be tamed when they're caught half-grown or older.
Make up a limerick about yourself.
I wish I were a little egg in a nest up in a tree. For I would try to drop myself and splatter thee with me.
Make up a limerick about me.
Yours is a mind so clever and bright, seeking knowledge and facts from morning `till night. So, whatever you do as you savor life's pleasures, love, honor, and respect are God's greatest treasures.
Relate a favorite spring memory.
There are so many fond memories of spring (summer and fall), it's hard to decide which is best of all. I spent 28 years living alone, so the best spring memory of all is when I married Leone.
Did your Mom or Dad ever find something you had hidden?
I never really had much to hide (or places to hide something) except what was on my mind. I don't think they ever found out how much I wanted to get off the farm and become a research engineer or scientist.
Share a memory of going to church as you were growing up.
Once, when we kids drove to the country church (with me in my "Sunday-go-to-meetin'" clothes) there was a team of "Holy Rollers" at the church who insisted everyone should lay on the floor and wave their arms shouting, "Alleluia! Praise the Lord!" I didn't want to get my clean clothes dirty so I didn't obey.
Share a memory about a church social activity.
As children we never experienced any church-related social activities. As teenagers in high school my church (Congregational) had a skating party on a pond beside Musser-Rosenmier homes (called the Bdsr-Hatchery rink) and were all invited for hot chocolate and cookies in the Musser home (they were our only town millionaires).
Tell about an Easter Egg hunt.
We never did Easter Egg hunts when we were kids. However, we often helped color & decorate Easter eggs. I don't ever recall candy Easter eggs until we bought them for our kids. My most memorable Easter was after the breakout of Anzio Beach-head in Italy. Thousands of troops gathered in the hills and fields to celebrate sunrise Mass conducted with the hood of a jeep for an alter and anti-aircraft guns ready in case of an air raid.
If your family went to Easter Sunrise services, tell about it.
We never celebrated Easter services when we were growing up. However, the biggest family celebration of the year was 4th of July. All the neighbors (about 8 or 10 families) cleaned, polished, and decorated their cars with flags and crepe paper and prepared delicious picnic baskets and we would all drive in a long line to Lake Alexander or Big Lake and spend the day fishing and swimming (in our overalls). The hardest part was when we had to leave all the fun and go home to milk the cows. 4th of July always started with who in the neighborhood could make the noisiest "BANG!" Dynamite was often used to produce loud explosions. We kids would save our pennies to buy all the fireworks we could (as cheap as we could!). I would buy strings of fire-crackers and take them apart to fire separately. Occasionally, my Dad would buy rockets to end the day with. I enjoyed 4th of July most of any day of the year.
When you played make believe, what did you pretend?
Pretending to be grown-up or doctors and patients were our most frequent fantasies. My favorite was putting a pair of boards across my shoulders and pretend to be an airplane. My brother, Carlyle, and I worked long and hard to pull a stranded steel cable high in a pine tree to an oak tree in a woods about a block away. We got a trolley wheel from a hay carrier and rigged a tire for a seat and would zip down from high in the pine to the oak.
If you could return to your childhood, what would you do differently?
I always envied "city kids" `cause there seemed to be so much excitement in towns and cities. However, I now feel that growing up on a primitive farm gave me a wealth of experiences that "city kids" envied (when they came from Duluth and Little Falls to visit us for a few days vacation). I feel now that I've learned a greater sense of appreciation and values and would do very little differently.
Is there anything you would do differently as a teenager?
Yes. I would have aspired for a more fulfilling social life, instead of avoiding new friendships and being and "outsider." I would have become more involved in sports and extracurricular activities instead of "hanging around" the pool hall. I never was very good at seeking part time work in stores, filling stations, etc.. I managed to get some part time work at hardware stores, though. My teenage years were not very exciting or colorful because of the farm work.
Did you ever write something that you were really proud of?
I once wrote a letter to the editor of the Minneapolis Journal urging that we stay out of the war between nations in Europe. It was published and I felt proud of having my name in the paper. I was chastised many years later when the FBI considered my letter to be "un-American" (while I was having a background check for top secret security clearance).
What is the best book you ever read as a child?
The "Life of Nicholai Tesla" was my favorite biographic book, while the "Swiss Family Robinson" and "Robinson Crusoe" were my favorite books of fiction.
What is the biggest physical problem you had to deal with?
Sudden and acute bleeding ulcers ended in emergency surgery for removal of 70% of my stomach. It was the closest I have ever been to with a 50-50 chance of survival. Removal of a brain tumor had me worried that I might not recover use of my left arm and hand. But I was lucky once again and hope the tumor does not start to grow again. [Written prior to second brain surgery in 1995]
Did you have any superstitions?
I don't recall any superstitions that affected my life style. I have always had a pet theory that might be called "superstition" because I believe in life cycles (that all that is has been before) and that visible life is only a small part of our existence; that invisible forces surround us at all times (similar to magnetic fields, gravitational attraction, and super natural effects).
Where were your best hide-and-seek places?
As a child we used to hide in hay piles, corn shocks and crawl spaces under farm buildings (granaries, corn cribs, etc.).
Tell about the first time you were ever behind the wheel of a car.
My dad taught me how an engine runs when I was seven years old, and showed me how to overhaul gas engines about the same period of time. He also allowed me to crank up our 1915 model "T" Ford and back it out of the garage to load up cream and eggs for delivery in Randall. I drove my mother to town (Randall) for the first time when I was ten years old. I tried many times to teach my mother how to drive but never succeeded.
Did you ever take anything that wasn't yours?
Many times. I removed parts from wrecked or junked cars (magnetos so I could get the "horseshoe" magnets that were in them ammeters and voltmeters, speedometers and even cowl lights for my bicycle). I always have been attracted my mechanical and electrical or hydraulic "gadgets" and "acquired" them whenever possible, but not always honestly.
What did you do with it? Did you get caught?
I "made things to run" from car accessories I stole. Sometimes a wrecked car might have a wind-up clock in the dash and I would make a spring driven toy from it by removing the escarpment ("ticker") from it. The only time I was caught stealing was when I and my sister "raided" a neighbor's melon patch and he followed us with his lights off and pointed a loaded army rifle at us when we stopped to eat them down. It was really embarrassing.
Do you have a story about a big surprise?
The biggest surprise I can recall is when Orson Welles announced on the radio that a strange craft from outer space had landed in New Jersey. The story was very realistic and I called Ed Viner to talk about it. By then, the radio was announcing that the army had been called out to surround the craft and that it was using strange rays to down our aircraft and destroy our tanks. Ed and I decided that it was a fake story because the Army didn't react that fast.
What childhood fear do you remember?
I always had a fear of the "boogey-man" who always lurked in the dark and waited to scare me as soon as the room was dark. I would blow out the lamp (kerosene) and leap for the bed and usually got there so fast that the room wasn't dark until I was under the covers (and safe!). We kids often talked about the "boogey-man" and decided that even though we weren't very sure he wasn't under the bed or in the shadows, we couldn't take chances to find him.
Tell about a May Day tradition.
Our country school always constructed a May-pole and it was my job to bring a straight smooth sapling to serve as the May-pole and bury it straight up in the ground with many crepe paper streamers, of different colors, attached to the top with paste and rubber bands made of model "T" Ford inner tubes. Then each pupil would take a streamer and circle the pole, weaving in and out, until the streamers were all laced around the pole in a colorful column. Songs were sung as we circled around the pole.
What were May Baskets made of and what did they contain?
May baskets were woven from rattan and/or willow saplings and were decorated with crepe paper and colored construction paper. They were always filled with Mayflowers, Trilliums, Cow-slips, Jack-in-the-pulpits, and other wild flowers. Sometimes they contained jelly beans or other candies and were usually to the teacher or mothers.
How much do you remember paying for an ice cream cone?
Five cents was all we ever paid for ice cream cones, and they were often double-dips on holidays. Most ice cream was home-made and was very delicious.
Did you have a treehouse?
We had a big treehouse high up in a white pine tree and would often bring up bottles of home-made ginger-ale to drink on hot summer days. It was also our launch platform for our aerial trolley that ran to an oak tree a block away in the woods. We often had to clean turkey poop from the floor of our treehouse as they would roost in the upper branches or in the treehouse itself.
Were you ever bitten by a dog?
No, but my brother, Carlyle, was severely bitten by a savage dog of a very unfriendly neighbor. It took a long time for the teeth wounds to heal. Iodine was the only disinfectant available and a poultice made of oat-meal in a stocking was used to help reduce the swelling caused by infection. A visiting veterinarian poured hydrogen peroxide on it and that stopped the infection.
Did your Mother ever make a special gift for you?
My mother always made a special birthday cake for us kids. Other than that there were no special gifts.
Tell about some good advice your mother gave you.
The best advice she ever gave me was when I asked her what she thought of my girlfriend, Leone, and she said, "Marry her; she'd be a very good wife for you." That was almost half a century ago and it's still the best advice I ever had.
Relate your family Mother's Day traditions.
Mother's Day presents were very few because of "hard times" so there were many acts of kindness by all the kids to make the day special, like my sisters cleaning the house without being asked and "trying" to prepare meals for the family. I often made gifts for her of willow baskets, fern stands and flower stands.
Do you remember any childhood songs or rhymes?
I remember almost all the popular nursery rhymes and most of the songs my mother used to sing while doing household chores. She often sang "Abide With Me," "The Old Rugged Cross" and other famous old hymns plus some of the popular western songs such as "Home on the Range," "The Prisoner Song," "Casey Jones, old classics like "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Darling Nellie Grey." I enjoyed hearing and singing along with roller-piano and organ music of all kinds.
Name some popular hit songs from your youth.
"It ain't gonna rain no more," "Roll Out the Barrel," "The Old Lamplighter," "The Old Oaken Bucket" (with it's many parody verses), "Old Black Joe," "She'll Be Comin' Around the Mountain," "Down By the Old Mill Stream," "Danny Boy," "I'll Take You Home, Kathleen," "The Old Grey Mare," "The Big Rock Candy Mountain," "Over There"; these are but a few of those we sung on Sunday afternoons at some friends house who had a piano or old pump organ. It was our favorite pastime.
What was your favorite singing group or band?
Guy Lombardo and Glen Miller were my favorite bands. My favorite singing groups were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots and Spike Jones. I also enjoyed Bing Crosby and Kate Smith as well as many other popular musicians. Music has always been a source of serenity, satisfaction and contentment for me.
Tell a favorite singer and a song that he/she sang.
Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" and "The Bells of St. Mary."
What kind of dances did you do as a youth?
2-Step, square and circle, fox-trot and waltzes.
Tell about the first dance you ever went to.
It was a neighborhood house-party given by Irish immigrants, the St. Dennis' to honor the wedding of one of their sons, Bernard, to a neighbor girl. They moved most of the furniture out of the living room and rolled up the carpet and had a fiddler and accordion player for music. We kids liked it because everyone brought their kids and lots of good food.
Tell about your high school prom or formal dance.
Ed Viner and I were asked to decorate the gym in an underwater theme. We built a "wrecked" pirate ship for the punch stand and stretched blue crepe paper above out heads for waves. On this we hung paper fish, sea horses and sea weed. It gave the impression of dancing under the water. My "date" was Jeannet Stein and her boy friend, Norman McLeod, hung around to see that there was no hanky-panky. The band played "Stardust" and that has always been my favorite song.
Describe the military experience of someone in your family.
I was the only member of my family to serve in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. We drove our trucks out of Camp Ripley on February 10, 1941 when it was 35 degrees below zero to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. We were sent to guard posts and bridges in the south on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941. We were the first ship to go overseas to Europe (Ireland, January 1942). From there we went through Scotland, England to invade North Africa, then to Italy where we fought for two years until the Nazis surrendered, then home almost four years later.
Share a memory involving a war during your childhood or youth.
WWI was in progress when I was born, August 3, 1917, and my uncle Arthur (mother's brother) fought in the trenches in France. My dad and Uncle Sam were Captains in the Home Guard. We often heard or talked about the "war to end all wars" would be coming soon (WWII). After that we were mobilized for the Korean Conflict and went to train in Camp Rucker, Alabama. Our family lived there for almost two years. Our son, Keith, went to Vietnam two time while we readied for entry into that conflict.
Share another memory involving a war during childhood or youth.
The most profound effect of the "Big One" was the appreciation I experienced for simple things we take for granted. How beautiful lighted windows and streets look after years of "black-out" living; how good it feels to walk along a road without fear of land mines; how grateful for a comfortable bed under a roof after years of tent-living in bed rolls (we called them "fart sacks"). How pleasant it is to have running water and indoor toilets.
Tell about your graduation exercises or traditions.
I graduated in the middle of the "great depression" and, therefore, couldn't afford a class ring or year book. However, I was on the honor roll throughout my school years and felt very proud of my academic record and diploma. There were no traditions to speak of except that the richer families gave their kids cars or motorcycles for graduation gifts.
What year did you graduate from high school?
1936. However, my graduation was delayed for a year (should have been 1935) but I was obliged to stay home and work on the farm because of "hard times" and missed a year (1933).
How many students were in your graduating class?
How many students attended your high school?
Did you do homework?
Very seldom. We always had a study hour and I got my assignments done then. Now and then there was a requirement for library work or research, but not often. I often volunteered appropriate soap sculptures for special topics in some classes (bust of Shakespeare for English, battle casualty for WWI study, bust of Edison for science class), also an illustrated booklet of the classic "Evangeline" and an illustrated booklet of the evolution of transportation.
Describe a very proud moment in your childhood.
When Joe St. Dennis and I performed a mystery act at the Randall Community Hall. I was about nine or ten years old and sat with my back to the audience, blind-folded and named objects (coins, dates of coins, etc.) that Joe went through the audience and they handed to him. We had memorized a code language that enabled me to tell what he was touching by the way he asked the questions. Nobody could figure it out and most people thought we were using mental telepathy.
Tell about Memorial Day traditions during your youth.
There was seldom any Memorial Day celebrations when we were kids.
Share a special memory of Memorial Day.
The battle of North Africa had just ended when Rommel's troops were surrendering by the thousands and came marching from the desert through fields that were brilliant red with poppies. I still recall thinking of the poppies of Flanders fields where many Americans were killed in WWI. There were high emotions in this scene since the German prisoners were singing their desert song, "Lili Marlene," as they marched to POW (Prisoner Of War) camps we had set up.
Did you play a musical instrument?
I played a slide trombone which I rented for 25 cents a month from the Kieldguard family of Cushing. It was quite badly dented and needed to be polished almost constantly to keep from turning green. I always envied kids who had brass instruments that wouldn't tarnish.
Tell of the closest friend you had during your childhood.
Kenneth Hegg was my best grade school friend. Once, when we were riding in the back of a horse-drawn buggy going to a birthday party at Calhoun's farm, the rear buggy wheel struck a rock and collapsed, breaking Kenneth's leg. He had to spend most of his summer vacation on their front porch while his leg healed. I visited him a lot. We were in the third or fourth grade then. In high school my best friend was Ed Viner, the most intelligent person I have ever known.
I there anything you have now that you have kept from your childhood?
My school graduation diploma and a horn kerchief slide I made as a cub scout. I gave it recently to my grandson, Mark.
Do you have any bath time stories?
Bath time in the summer was going out in the rain naked with a bar of soap. Winter time was a weekly bath in a galvanized wash-tub beside the living room heater stove. The girls got the baths first (all five of them) and by the time it got to Carlyle and I there was quite a scum on the water. The soap of those days never sudsed up much but sure got the dirt off. Now and then somebody's bare bottom backed into the hot stove and there was a loud yelp.
Tell about a strange person that lived in your town.
We grew up during prohibition days and one of the "moonshiners" had a still in the woods hidden in the corner of our farm. He would sell his moonshine at a barn dance Friday nights during the summer. He was often chased by revenuers but always managed to escape or get rid of his booze. He kept a father-and-son bachelor household supplied and the old man would get roaring drunk and sing so everyone could hear him for miles on a quiet spring evening. That usually signaled that spring was officially here.
What was the funniest name or nickname in your town.
Chauncey Smracker managed the local hang-out (we called it the "Office") for high school kids, Smracker's Pool Hall. He was quite bald with light colored complexion so he was suitably nicknamed "Cue-ball," a name he resented but had to accept because getting him mad was kind of a game with some of the crueler kids.
Did you ever sleep under the stars?
Many times! When we were kids we would sleep on freshly cut hay which mosquitoes avoided. We would sometimes take our straw-filled mattress outside to sleep on hot summer nights (when the mosquitoes were not too hungry). While on military training in Louisiana we always slept in hammocks and in North Africa we often slept in the open under the stars. Also, in mid-summer in Ireland, when it would never really get dark because the sun was close to the horizon.
Tell about hot dog or marshmallow roasting.
When I was in the fifth or sixth grade in our country school one nice spring day (it was about 1927-28) our teacher took us all on a hike of about two miles across woods and hills to a huge rock called "The Devil's Couch" (it was shaped somewhat like a tremendous couch). We gathered dead twigs and branches and built a fire. We boys were in charge of cutting green willow "holders" for wieners and marshmallows. That was the first of my many bonfire adventures.
Did you ever go on a camp out? Tell about it.
The question brings up many thoughts and memories. When we were kids we often took sandwiches and water (sometimes milk) along for a long hike in the woods of our wilderness pasture. Our favorite camp-out location was what we called the "water-hole" (my dad said it was an old buffalo wallow). We waded in the water & played on the shore, building a gunny-sack tent where we "camped out." During the war we "camped out" for almost four years in seven different countries.
Did you ever go on a snipe hunt?
No. When we were kids we wouldn't have recognized a "snipe," so how could we hunt them?
What food did you learn to cook or prepare first as a youth?
Popcorn, eggs and chicken.
Share a horse-riding story.
We had a mare named "Mag." She was a good riding horse but, since we had no saddle, I had to ride bare-back. This was tricky with Mag `cause she knew that getting on her back was, at best, difficult. You either had to have a tree stump or fence post to get on her back and if you didn't, you had to heist yourself up with a pull on her mane. When you were just about half-way over her back she'd reach around and grab your pants with her teeth and pull you down.
What was your first job?
My first "paying job" was in the Winter of 1930 when I worked for my Uncle Sam doing chores and peeling fence posts for 25 cents a day to pay for straw and hay we needed for our herd of starving cattle. It was the first year of the "big drought" and the "Great Depression," so money was scarce and feed for livestock even more scarce. I strongly resented having to miss High School and being treated as a slave in bondage.
How much did you get paid?
The previous entry tells it all. I worked all year just to pay for feed for or cattle. We were forced to sell most of them the next year because of lack of hay, grasses, or feed. No one had money to buy them so the government bought them for $25 per cow which, they in turn, gave free meat to the poor and desperate through what they called the "Emergency Relief" program. My dad, who was too proud to "go on relief," was appointed director of the program in Morrison county (and worked for the state from then on).
Tell about any other paying jobs you held as a youth.
I used to work part time in the creamery, pasteurizing and bottling milk, helping make butter and cleaning all the milk processing equipment, including washing milk bottles, making and bottling orange and grape drinks and scrubbing tile walls with muratic acid. I also worked part time assembling toys, tricycles, bicycles, wagons, etc. For hardware stores, helping fill silos, thresh and shock grain, and help with construction projects. The pay was never more than a dollar a day.
Were you ever chased by some animal?
I've been chased by dogs, bulls and mother pigs (sows) including wild "razor backs" in Louisiana swamp country.
If you were ever in a parade, tell about it.
Country grade schools always got together on what was called "Field Day" where there were all kinds of athletic contests: dodge ball, sack races, wheel-barrow races, 100-yard and 200-yard dashes, etc.. Each school had a motto and it was my job to carry the sign with "District 30 - We Excel" on it in the parade of all the schools (there were about eight or nine country schools at this gala affair) and we always enjoyed the high spirit of getting to know other kids from other schools.
Tell another memory about a parade.
In 1933 I drove my home-made snow plane in the first Winter Carnival parade Little Falls ever had (Feb., 1933). When Little Falls had it's first parades after the war I was usually put in charge of the military equipment from Camp Ripley. We always brought our big 100-ton "Dragon-Wagon" loaded with a tank and numerous trucks, guns, amphibians, and marching troops. Bruce was four years old when he rode with the Dragon Wagon while Richard and I rode in the highway patrol car that led the parade with blaring siren and horns.
Share a childhood memory about a death that affected you.
We kids were all acutely aware of the death of an eight year old school mate who died of spinal meningitis. Her last words, I remember well, "Good-bye to all." That was about 1926. For some reason I'll never understand we kids were not permitted to see our grandparents in the funeral parlor when they died. In fact, we were seldom included in funerals but remember the gatherings of the relatives for eating after the burial was completed.
Relate your happiest memory as a youth.
4th of July celebration at Lake Alexander was always exciting and fun `cause there were so many things for kids to do: swimming, fishing, firecrackers (and other fireworks), homemade ice cream, pop, fried chicken, pie, cake and cookies, and other kids to meet and play with. It was, by far, the happiest memory for us farm kids. But, always spoiled by having to go home early to milk the cows and separate the cream.
How did you learn to swim?
By splashing around a lot in the old water hole and "dog paddling" on the lake shore.
Where did you go swimming?
See previous entry. I swam like a rock! I would've drowned at the public beach on the river in Little Falls if Ed Kieffer hadn't seen me and pulled me out.
Tell a favorite memory of your father.
There were many memories of "Pa," as we called him; not all good but often unforgettable. My favorite memory is when he overhauled our Model "T" Ford engine and explained exactly how to do it and how an engine worked. I have never forgotten how well he taught and the many times he'd explain how different things worked.
Tell about some good advice your father gave you.
Loyalty to family and helping people in need. It was not so much advice as setting good examples. Whenever neighbors needed help starting cars, fixing machinery or building homes, barns or even fixing a telephone, my dad always taught well.
Did your father ever make a special gift for you?
He once carved the hull of a sailing ship (for all of us kids). It was a thing of beauty and grace. But he never got around to finishing it (putting on the masts and sails). He never made anything special for me but his genes; the seeking of knowledge and understanding people was the greatest gift that can only be inherited.
Did you have a special nature place where you went to explore?
In one of the previous entries I told of the "water-hole" where us kids spent endless hours watching life grow in the water of a pond and marveling at the different types of bugs, insects, etc. That had water in their life cycle. We also explored, "very carefully," a floating bog that was eerie and a little fearful. Many cattle and horses died in it (it was a lot like quick-sand).
Did you ever go skinny-dipping?
Yes. Not when we were kids, though. When I was in my second and third year of high school (1933-34) I worked for my room and board at Hall's Hospital and in the summertime on Dr. Hall's farm east of Little Falls, after hot summer days in haying and harvest fields, I and the doctor's son and two or three others would use the doctor's car to drive out to the granite quarries to skinny-dip, cool off and clean up. We would take a towel and a bar of soap along.
Did you ever make mud pies?
No. But I did enjoy an occasional mouthful of good clean soil.
Did you go barefoot in the summer?
All of us kids couldn't wait to go barefoot which we did all summer long. Our feet became so tough we could walk on sharp gravel, sand burrs and grain stubble with no problem.
If so, relate an experience about stepping on something.
We often stepped on sharp stones and, occasionally, on boards with nails that would puncture our feet and cause swelling, pain and need for poultices (oatmeal or slice of salty ham fat) to reduce swelling and help healing. I don't ever recall seeing a doctor for medication. Iodine was always poured on wounds and cuts. We also stepped in an awful lot of cow manure, chicken manure, and horse manure (yuck!).
Tell about a bike you had.
My first and only bike had wooden wheel rims and single-tube tires. The wheels needed frequent spoke adjustments to keep the tires from rubbing the frame. It cost $2.00 and I got it my first year in high school. It helped to get me to my favorite places to explore, the banks of the Mississippi River. After I finished high school (1936) I traded it, even-up, for a junk-pile motorcycle.
Tell about your first very own car.
My first "very own" car was a 1915 Model "T" Ford roadster which, with the help of Carlyle, we removed the body so I could make a "run-about" sportster. I traded my "junk-pile" motorcycle for it, even-up. I had overhauled the motorcycle so it ran good, then I had to overhaul the Model "T" so it would run. It gave me a new freedom I never experienced before - going all over the country-side south of Little Falls in the mid-depression of 1936-38. Gas was 11 to 15 cents a gallon and you could make a gallon last for almost a week.
Did you ever have or make a swing?
I have made many swings from "Tarzan" like roper hung high on a pine tree branch, with a car tire on the bottom, to regular swings using hay rope hung from the barn peek. Later, I built a "wave-action" swing that created quite a sensational ride but was too dangerous for most kids.
Tell about seeing something you thought was quite beautiful.
I've always thought that rainbows after a refreshing summer shower were the most beautiful thing in the world. However, they are beauty to the eyes only, therefore flowers are my favorite things of beauty. My favorite childhood memory was to visit "Noonans' Little Bit O' Heaven" garden in Alexandria. It truly lived up to it's name since it seemingly burst with colorful flowers, vines and shrubbery. Another scene even more awesome in beauty was the Isle of Victoria off Vancouver that truly was magnificent with flowers.
Describe an outside game you made up.
Our favorite outside game was on the snow in wintertime with a horse pulling a snow-surf-board consisting of an old car trunk cover, upside down and towed on a long rope behind the horse. It skittered across the snow at high speed when the horse rider would turn the horse suddenly and cause the surf board to swing in a wide arc and go so fast your fingers couldn't hang on to the rope and you'd go rolling over the snow.
Describe an inside game you made up.
My brother and I used to carve battleships out of wood and arm them with cannons made of reed tubing firing bean or corn with a rubber band. We would line our ships up on each side of the kitchen table and fire our "ammunition" trying to knock each others' ships off the table. Another "weapon" we used was a "potato-gun" in which you used a brass or copper tube, a tinker-toy plunger and push the tube into a slice of potato and push another behind it to seal the tube. Then, a quick push with the plunger fired a potato.
What kind of fireworks did people have when you were a youth?
We saved our pennies, nickels and dimes to buy fire-crackers of all sizes and some torpedoes and roman candles. Sky rockets were too expensive and they didn't have bottle rockets or sparklers `till later. We made quite a few really loud "bangs" using explosives like dynamite and pyrotol. The trick was to hide the primer cap in a long stick and set it on fire so it burned with a brilliant yellow flame until it came to the cap.
Tell about Independence Day traditions of your childhood.
I have previously described quite frequently about our 4th of July celebrations at "Goodwin's Playground" at Lake Alexander. Our flag decorated cars, flat tires, picnic baskets (home brew!), pop that burped through your nose and treat of all treats... Speed-boat rides! Those were the glorious traditional days that us kids looked forward to all year; new friends, excitement, fishing, swimming, food and laughter.
Do you have a special July 4th that you remember most?
I was out alone rowing a boat just for the joy of being on the water when I saw a swimmer quite far out waving arms for help. I quickly rowed over and helped a young girl, who was exhausted and near drowning, into the boat (and almost flipped it over). As she got in one breast fell out of her bathing suit and I was very embarrassed as she asked me to help put it back in. It was the beginning of a friendship.
Did you ever go to carnivals of amusement parks? Where?
The only carnivals were in the midway of the county fair. We didn't have much money for rides but I always managed to have enough for the Ferris-wheel (I loved heights) and the eerie-diggers. I bugged the guys who operated gyp-joints like hide the pea under a shell and the swinging bowling ball. I'd figure out how they worked and tell people. The carnival workers threatened me if I didn't leave. I once got my first wrist watch from an eerie digger.
What kinds of rides and games were there? How much did they cost?
The rides were very few; a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, pony ride and tilt-a-whirl. Later they came out with the aerial swing and the loop-the-loop rockets. Costs were 10 to 25 cents. The merry-go-round cost five cents.
Tell about any State Fair or County Fair experiences.
The past two entries tell of the county fairs and their carnivals. My first State Fair was in 1936, when I was very fortunate in getting a job as a ticket-taker for the rides and side shows. We lived in dormitories on the fairgrounds and took tickets at a different ride or show each day and lived off junk food for the whole week. I and my friend Ed Viner hitch-hiked down and back from the job at the fair.
Tell about going to a circus or chautaugua.
I never went to a circus as a child but every summer went to the chautaugua and/or Christy Obrecket's show, driving my mother there (in Little Falls) in our 1915 Model "T" Ford. I really enjoyed these tent shows and vividly remember the sadness I felt for "Daddy Long-legs." I can still smell the fresh sawdust they used for the floor in the huge tent used by the shows.
Tell any favorite summertime memory.
Summertime was so full of memories that it's difficult to say which was my favorite. I think the year I built an airplane out of boards to "fly" out of our trolley in the tall pine tree to an oak tree in the woods a block away was the most exciting incident. Carlyle and I worked hard to get the "airplane" up in the tree and I climbed in for a breath-taking ride down the trolley cable. The weight of the airplane was too much and the trolley sagged close to the ground and I "crashed" in the raspberry patch.
Did you go fishing in your childhood?
Every chance I got! I would go along with my dad and our "hired man," named Oscar Swenson, to Big Lake near Cushing. We had no motor and rented a home-made flat bottomed boat for 50 cents a day and took turns rowing. I soon tired of such events and asked to fish off shore by myself where I caught many "sunnies" in the bull rushes and cat-tails and almost always had a lot more fish than the men-folks (also got a lot more fish to clean when we got home!).
Tell about your biggest or best catch.
I once caught a huge northern pike on a cane pole and he almost pulled me out of the boat. We spent a great deal of time following that cane pole around the lake until the fish tired and we could land him. My dad always made (hand-carved) his own fishing plugs and equipped them with tin fins and glass button eyes and that was my bait.
Do you remember having a favorite candy? How much did it cost?
My mother and I made my favorite candy; taffy, which was pulled vigorously before drying and cutting in chunks. We also made rock candy which is molten sugar with a thread through the middle so it could be hung up in garlands to dry and could be used for Christmas decorations. The cost was negligible. Once in a while my mother would buy a five cent Baby Ruth bar and slice it in six parts for us kids.
Do you remember having a favorite snack that you made at home?
My favorite home snack has always been the end "chunk" of fresh home-made bread spread with fresh home-made butter and topped with wild-strawberry jam. My mouth waters now when I even think of it!
Share a memory about going on a picnic.
In the summer of 1941 I was attending an army school in Holibird, Maryland. I became good friends with Walter Rice and we spent weekends at his parents' home in Syracuse, N.Y. along with another buddy, John Homberg. We would drive there (about 400 miles) in Walter's old jalopy Friday nights and come back near dawn on Monday morning. Walter's mother always prepared a picnic basket that was filled with home-fixed food and they'd drive us to a different scenic place each weekend; Niagara Falls, Finger Lake, Vermont and the Catskill Mountains. It was a joyful summer.
What kinds of party games or party activities were popular?
Spin the bottle, post office, musical chairs, three-legged races, "wheelbarrow" races and various ball games were some of the favorite party activities of the time. We also enjoyed gathering around an old pump organ or piano and sing from old song sheets and roll music (for player pianos and organs). We did a lot of swimming in the river in summertime and sledding down hill in the winter.
Share a memory involving a heat wave or drought.
The memory of growing up during the "great drought" of the `30s will always be the bleakest of all memories. The summer heat was almost unbearable as there was no air-conditioning. Crops dried up; pastures became parched and cattle had to be herded in brush country for food; lakes became ponds and there was not enough hay to winter livestock. Times were desperate with little income, unemployment and soup lines in the cities. Even trees died and tumble weeds caught on fences, causing sand drifts to build. Very trying times!
What did you do to stay cool?
There was little that could be done to stay cool other than play in the shade of our white pine trees and splash in what was left of our "water hole"; it became stagnant, stinky and muddy. The greatest treat was rare, a trip to a lake or stream to splash in. We often slept on the ground outside under burlap to keep the mosquitoes off (even though there was very little rain, the mosquitoes managed to survive). Oh! How we lowed the rare rains that seldom fell!
What was your favorite holiday of the year?
Elsewhere I wrote of our favorite holiday, the 4th of July. Christmas was usually a little disappointing since we kids usually got one or two toys and a small paper bag of mixed candy and nuts.
Share a birthday party memory.
I cannot recall a birthday party memory since we never had one; but we always felt special when cake and ice cream was made to honor our birthdays.
Tell about the neatest shoes you ever owned as a youth.
They were brown leather square-toed dress shoes that were meant only for Sunday school (when I drove us kids to a country church about two miles from our farm). I also recall my first pair of tennis shoes that my Aunt Olga bought for me. They had a special sole called "crepe rubber" which was very light weight and I felt like I could run like the wind.
Share a memory about a power outage.
The question causes me to grin! We kids never had a power outage since we had no electricity! I do recall an awful lot of cleaning lamp and lantern chimneys with crumpled newspapers. Midway in our "growing-up" years we got a Coleman gas lamp which really brightened our living room, but needed a lot of attention cleaning the "generator" tip and replacing mantles.
Relate a memory involving a flood or cloudburst.
In the middle of the drought years of the early thirties we had a midsummer cloudburst that dropped three inches of rain in less than an hour and created lakes and ponds in every valley and low spot. We kids gloried in splashing in these sudden ponds of cool water after all the heat and dryness we suffered.
Relate a memory of a tornado, hurricane, or destructive wind.
This is my dimmest recollection since I was only three years old when a cyclone took the roof off from our barn and threw it upside down in a field about a half-mile away. I remember the loud roar of the wind and, later, "walking on the ceiling" of the barn roof seeing light bulbs still intact in their sockets upside down. A year later we moved to a farm with no electricity, where we "grew up."
What memories do you have of lightning or thunder during your childhood?
My mother used to calm our fears by telling us that God was house-cleaning in Heaven and the thunder was chairs and tables being moved around and the lightning was the power of His brooms and mops. I always have enjoyed the thrill of thunderstorms and the good clean smell of the ozone in the air afterwards, plus the sometimes added beauty of a rainbow.
Share a special memory about riding in a boat.
The details of this experience are still crystal clear. It was the 4th of July, 1928, when we were on our annual picnic to "Goodvin's Playground" on the north shore of Lake Alexander. He had just purchased a new mahogany-hulled Chris-Craft runabout powered by a 180 horsepower Grey-marine inboard engine. The ride cost 75 cents (a lot in those days!), but the thrill of "hammering" the waves in the fastest boat I'd ridden in was indescribable and unforgettable.
Tell about a family vacation trip.
Our family never went on a vacation when we were growing up; outings and picnics were few because we always had cows to milk mornings and evenings. It was too much work for one person (we milked an average of 17 to 20 cows all year round). After milking the milk had to be hauled to the house to be separated into cream (the little spout) and skim milk (the big spout) which we fed to the calves and pigs while we cooled the cream in cold well-water and took it to the creamery in Randall twice a week.
Share the best vacation experience you can recall.
Our first truly family vacation trip was in 1957 when we gathered a Ford full of kids and took a vacation trip through the Iron Range, Port Arthur and Thunder Bay in Canada, back along the famous North Shore of Lake Superior to Duluth, on to St. Paul, and then back to Little Falls. All agreed that it was a lot of fun and gave everyone a new look at the scenic beauty of Canada and Minnesota.
Share the most unpleasant vacation experience you can recall.
I can't recall a vacation that was "unpleasant." Some were less than anticipated but vacations have a way of giving some new appreciation to adventure and change of routine. My most disappointing vacation was a 3-day furlough in Manchester, England when I and Bill Cheeseman went to visit his elderly aunt, then we were called back to our camp near Liverpool and, after many buses and taxis in a rain-drenched week-end, found out our trip to USA for OCS had been canceled we went to Africa instead.
Do you have any other memories about a river, lake, or beach to share?
I have many good memories about the edges of water bodies because I've always liked to "explore" beaches and shores. Guess there's a touch of my ancient ancestors in my genes. One incident comes to mind when we were in a rest area in Biserte, North Africa after Rommel's surrender and went swimming in the Mediterranean. I bumped into a Portuguese Man `O War jelly-fish and was very painfully poisoned by it's venom. It almost made me unconscious it hurt so bad.
Tell a memory about riding on a ferry, bus, train, or plane.
Memories abound since by my younger years were filled with much travel. I recall the ferry, "Daffodil," which transported us from Ireland to Scotland. It had many patches due to it's being bombed and strafed during the evacuation of the British from Dunkirk when they retreated to England from the Nazis on mainland Europe. I also recall a helicopter crash I was in during a takeoff from heavy woods in Camp Ripley. Also our plane was hit by lightning twice flying out of New York City.
Share another memory about a ride.
I was a courier motorcyclist in Louisiana maneuvers in 1941 and was forced off a narrow swamp road while passing a convoy of military trucks. I landed in a stinky swamp ditch (bayou) and the only thing visible of the motorcycle was the handlebars and headlight and I was dripping with gooey swamp mud. I was once chased by an enraged wild boar in a Louisiana jungle and had to maneuver between trees with the motorcycle to escape his wrath.
Do you have a good piece of advice for me?
My advice to whoever reads this is: Do the best you can and always do a little more than is expected. Keep in mind these tiny little words; if it is to be, it is up to me! And remember you are never alone when you keep God at your side.
Tell of an experience climbing a mountain or a big hill.
Wherever I journeyed I liked to climb the tallest thing around. The Atlas mountains of Tunisia, North Africa were covered with huge cork trees (bark 4" to 6" thick!) while the Apponines of Italy were rather sparse of vegetation. We lived for a while on the slopes of an extinct volcano in Pianura, Italy and I enjoyed climbing to the crater. I also enjoyed an extinct volcano mountain in Vermont that had a crystal lake in its crater that was 500 feet deep.
Tell a memory about having company at your house, or of a family party.
My parents joined friends and neighbors in card parties with each family taking their turn to host the whole bunch (about 20). They would help each other by bringing folding tables and chairs and would fill our living room and big kitchen with tables, chairs and people. They always had a huge kettle on the kitchen wood stove and cook wieners and a huge "granite" coffee pot with an egg or two in it to "settle" the grounds. These were very noisy affairs and us kids would peek through the hot air registers upstairs to hear and see as much as we could and hope there'd be some wieners left in the morning.
Tell about board games you played as a child.
Backgammon, checkers (including chinese checkers) cribbage and fortune telling were done on a board that usually had folding legs and corner pockets (for a form at pool). Fortune-telling was a sort of voo-doo art pressing hands on an arrow that would supposedly point to an answer to your question allegedly due to psychological power or extra sensory perception (ESP). There were also oil-cloth game-boards of this type that could be played on any table.
Tell about card games you played.
My "genius" uncle Al (Adolf Bach) with my eager assistance made a cribbage board form a chunk of oak firewood using a nail in an auger big brace to drill the holes. That was used for many hours of boisterous cribbage games. We also played poker using matches for money. "500" was a common Sunday afternoon game and, later on, whist was popular. We also played crazy 8s, widow, canasta, euker, and hearts. My dad didn't like hearts especially if somebody sloughed the Queen of spades on him!
Did you ever have a weight problem as a youth?
Yes, I was always too skinny even though I ate well. Later, I leaned that I had basal metabolism (turning food to energy rather than to fat). I also had frequent stomach nausea and stomach aches which was called growing pains but turned out to be worms (which quickly seized when a yucky medicine was taken).
What was your best talent?
Drawing was my best talent with wood-working and inventing next. I also picked up quickly on electrical experimentation using old dry-cell batteries (until we moved to a farm with electricity). And I've also thrived on mechanical things.
Tell about a time when you got lost.
Us kids used to go exploring in the forests north of our farm and once got completely lost till we came to an fence that we followed (in the wrong direction!) and ended up about 2 miles from home. Much later in life I and my C.O. got lost at night returning to our unit which was bivovaced on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Tunisia, North Africa. We used flashlight to examine tire tracks and found out they were German. We hid in a wadi until morning then followed it back to our unit.
Did you ever play in the sprinkler or hose?
Not as kids 'cause we never had sprinklers or hoses. However, we did have a summer "shower bath" of sorts by putting a 55 gallon drum on our machine-shed roof and boarded off a shower stall down below. We hauled water in 5 gallon cans about two blocks from the hand-operated well, up a ladder to fill the drum. Then we waited till the sun warmed it enough to shower. There was much complaints about the girls using up most of the water!
Tell about being stung by a bee or wasp.
West of our house was a grove of trees and underbrush surrounded by a rickety old woven-wire fence. A wasp-nest was discovered in the dead grass in the base of the fence and you could shake the wire fence and see the wasps come out in clouds (from a good distance away.) One of our cats followed me there so I left the cat off by the wasp nest and ran down to shake the fence. The wasps got the cat and me! I ended up stung so my eye-lid swelled shut and the cat hated me.
Did you have any favorite family songs that you sang together?
That's one thing we did a lot of. Not only family singing together but friends and relatives. Popular hymns my mother sang almost every day were "Abide With Me," "Rock of Ages," "The Old Rugged Cross" and many more. We sang a lot of cowboy songs and memorized many of the Scotch songs on our Cylinder Edison Phonograph by Harry Lauder and "Uncle Josh." Singing has always been a great joy for me.
Tell about your bedroom.
My brother, Carlyle, and I shared an upstairs bedroom in which the only furniture was an apple box lamp table beside the straw-tick bed. The "mattress" had one side that could be opened by shoelace strings. We would stuff the mattress cover with straw and, about mid-winter, dump it out when it got matted down too much and fill it with fresh straw. It was great sleeping when it was fluffed up!
Share a memory of staying overnight with a friend.
In the summer-time we had cousins from the cities (Duluth and Twin Cities) stay with us a week or so on the farm. When we were haying (cutting hay and putting in the hay-mow of the barn) we would leave the big hay door open and spread blankets to sleep on the fresh mown hay. It was so good smelling the "City Kids" thought it great until somebody would roll off the pile and have to dig out from falling under the eave.
If you ever ran away from home, tell about it.
I never ran away from home but, after high school, I wanted to but didn't want to abandon my mother who would have to find somebody to run our farm (which was a dairy operation south of Little Falls). My dad was working for the state and expected me to run the farm. He felt that my owed it to him 'cause they had raised us kids. There were some serious arguments over this.
Do you remember being really curious about something?
I was curious (and still am) about just everything imaginable. My greatest curiosity, however, has been about wild-life, nature, and humanity. I remember how I enjoyed a book in our country-school library called "The Cavemen." It was well written about pre-historic man and his struggle with life in a hostile world of saber-toothed tigers, mastodons, and flying reptiles.
Share your childhood experiences with roller skates.
We never had roller skates but the family had a pair of adjustable clamps on two runner ice skates that we shared on ice ponds and ice in ditches along the road to school.
Did you ever experience home sickness?
Yes, very much. Especially after almost 3 years overseas during the war. I used to get home sick when I was a kid "farmed out" to work for my aunt and uncle in the summer time. And, in 1931, spent a year out of high school, working for them to pay for hay for our starving herd of cattle (the big drought wiped out our hay crop so we fed them straw).
Can you tell of your first tastes of pop or soda?
Yes! It was grape pop at Hubble's Pool Hall in Randall. My dad bought it for me. It was really good but had too much carbon dioxide in it so it would bubble in my nose. It was a new invention (soda pop) and was a great adventure!
Share an early experience with shaving.
My biggest problem with shaving when I was in my teens was to avoid cutting the tops of my "chin blossoms" (pimples). I learned early how to use a styptic pencil to stop the numerous bloody spots on my face. I experienced pimples until I was almost 30 years old and was often embarrassed by them.
Tell about a favorite doll, teddy bear, or other stuffed toy.
I don't ever recall having a stuffed toy of any kind. A toy I cherished for many years (7 to 10 years of age), was a cast-iron toy Fordson Tractor. I can still recall every detail of that little machine and, Kevin tells me, it would be worth an awful lot today.
Tell about another favorite toy.
When I was 4 years old I stayed the winter with my aunt and uncle at Pine Grove Park (now known as the Radke home) and at Christmas my Aunt Ellen gave me a push toy butterfly that slowly raised and lowered its wings as you pushed it along the floor. It also had a bell between the wheels that delighted me with a musical tinkle. Toys were very scarce in those days. Also made of very flimsy tin, they didn't last long.
Did you have to abide by a curfew as a youth?
No. We never heard of such a thing. On a farm there's nothing to stay up for and, besides, you had to go to bed with the chickens and rise with the chickens because of the chores that had to be done every day.
Describe any "follow the leader" games you played.
This was one od my favorite games! I liked to be the leader so I could pretend I stepped on ice jumping a frozen over ditch so the not-so-bright boy behind would get a wet foot when he broke through the thin ice. I also liked to climb tall trees and roofs so follow-the-leader games became quite adventurous. There was always a few who would keep up but a lot dropped out, "chickened-out," we called it.
Describe how you used the phone to call a friend.
Ours was a one-wire country phone operated by two dry-cell batteries and a hand cranked magneto that rang louder the faster you turned it. Our ring was long-short-long and there were 12 different code rings on our line. To call a different line you rang one long and "central" would ask what place you wanted on a different line and would ring it for you. Long distance was ten cents to Little Falls. Lightning would often put our line out of order.
Did you ever have a fire in your home or accidentally catch something on fire?
We never had a serious fire in our farm home even though we had a wood-burning kitchen stove and living room heater. We had a chimney fire now and then and it was quite worrisome until my dad or Oscar, our hired man, climbed the roof and poured pails of water down the chimney. Once in a while the phone would ring one long, long ring which meant fire in somebody's farm and everyone would grab pails and run to help fight the fire.
Tell about going to box socials or pot lucks.
Box socials were an annual event at our country school. The neighborhood girls in their early teens on up would prepare very fancy boxes of lunch to be auctioned off to the boys and young men who would share the box lunch with the girl that made it. It was sort of a game to figure out who made what box; what was in it and how pretty the girl was.
Tell about an incident when you were very angry with your mom or dad.
I never had anger relationships with my mother but had some with my dad, especially in my teens and early twenties. Suffice to say he didn't want me to go on to school after I graduated from high school because he needed me to run the farm and dairy. I wanted very much to go on to college to become an electrical research engineer.
Tell about an incident when your mom or dad was very angry with you.
I can't recall they were both angry with me together. My dad was angry with me quite often but my mother would only pretend anger in a sly humorous way. One incident that tells it all was when my mother got a new broom and chased me with it (to see if it was suitable for swatting a kids' behind). I ran out the door and my mother chased me and broke the broom handle when she ran through the door with the broom crossways.
Share a memory involving an outhouse.
Refer to the memory of January 17 of my "escort of Grandma" to the outhouse. One cold winter morning I waited shivering outside while she "did her thing" there was a burst of Swedish words that sounded pretty angry. When I got her back to the house she told my aunt Olga what the problem was. My aunt burst out laughing and told me that she had sat down on the last turd on the frozen pile which froze in an upright position and "goosed" her when she sat down. She seemed to think someone did it on purpose.
Do you remember any Labor Day traditions of your youth?
Labor day was not created till after I was a kid.
Do you have a memory involving V.J. Day?
Yes. I was commander of troops on the Yugoslavian border with Italy in the Trieste Province. We had open house for the whole town of Udina, Italy and since we had a Red Cross donut making machine with us we served coffee and donuts (a rare treat for the Italians) to almost 4,000 natives. And, although I had been overseas for almost 4 years I still couldn't get a ship to the states for more than 6 more weeks.
Tell about your school year calendar.
Country school, District 30 west of Randall always began the first Monday in September with 2 weeks off at Christmas, a three day weekend for Easter and ended around June 1. For many years, my brother, Carlyle, was in charge of getting the school heater stove going so their room would be somewhat warm by the time the teacher and the rest of the students came in. The last two years, I had that job (including removing ashes and klinkers from coal use.
What do you remember about your first day of school?
I don't remember specific things about the first day of school in September 1923 in District #30 in Parker Township but do not recall the fascination of all the people near my age (there were 17 pupils in grades 1 through 8-there was no kindergarten). Since we were all in one room I enjoyed listening to classes going on in higher grades, and really enjoyed the whole day! School was always very easy (and enjoyable) for me.
Tell about a school bully.
His name was Clarence Calhoun and he was always looking for trouble. I never could figure out why he picked on me but I always managed to "pin" him (get him flat on his back with me on top and holding his arms so he couldn't hit me.) He had a very bad temper and once fought with the teacher who ended up with her hair-do in a tangled mess. He picked a lot of fights but I don't recall him winning any.
What do you remember doing at recess?
We always played games outside; "pump-pump-pullaway," dodge ball, tag, and follow the leader. I liked to lead and would always climb a tall tree which many were scared to climb. In the spring and fall our recess was often spent raking the school yard (everyone brought rakes from home). Then we'd have a big bon-fire to burn the leaves and grass.
Tell about the playground equipment at your grade school.
Our playground equipment consisted of a soccer ball which we used for "dodge-ball."
Did your parents ever make you wear something stupid to school?
My parents didn't but my sisters talked me into going to school dressed as a girl on April Fools Day. This included white stockings, slippers, and a straw hat with my hair combed forward to look like long hair under the hat. We walked to school a mile and a half with three neighbor kids who thought I was a "cousin" from Duluth just visiting school. I was very embarrassed the whole day!
Tell about who you thought was the smartest kid in school and why.
I was! I got straight A's all through grade school (and nobody else did).
Tell about who you thought was the dumbest kid in school and why.
Gene Bennet was a neglected, abused and pitiful boy who stunk of wet pants (and even number 2 in his pants!) He and his older sister, Olive, were required by their alcoholic dad to go to neighbors homes and "borrow" vanilla (it was 30% alcohol) for his drinking. Neither child could comprehend school work and failed almost every grade.
Tell about the naughtiest kid in school.
Refer to the question on the school bully, Clarence Calhoun.
Tell about a teacher's pet.
I don't recall ever hearing or noticing a "teacher's pet" all my country school years.
Name the schools that you went to.
Country school district #30 in Parker township (west of Randall 4 1/2 miles) and Little Falls High School. Later on I went to military schools in Baltimore, Aberdeen, MD, and numerous other forts and camps throughout the nation. I received my college degree in command and General Staff at age 54 in Ft. Leavenworth.
What was your most embarrassing school moment?
Refer to the question "Did your parents ever make you wear anything stupid to school?"
Name the Grade School teachers you remember.
My country school teachers were Julia Eckwall, Ada Kjeldergaard and Ella Hoglund. I was later honored to be the graduation speaker at the Randall school and chose the occasion to tell about Ella Hoglund's ability and dedication to motivate her students (for 30 years) of teaching.
Name the high school teachers you remember.
Barney Evaslage-Chemistry and Physics, Miss Skoglund-Geometry, Hilda Eiech-History, Miss Gillig ("Hoop" for her legs)-Biology, Mildred Anderson-English, Miss Tift-Social Studies, Verner Johnson-Manual Training, James Michie-Principal, Earl Von Dusen-Superentendent, Mr. Burnett-Atheletic Coach, Bess White-Algebra .
Name the Jr. High teachers you remember.
They didn't differentiate between Jr. And Sr. High in my day.
Describe your typical school day outfit.
Shirt, tie, sweater, pants, square-toed shoes and, for three years (1932-1935), spats. Some of the more-moneyed students wore "zuit-suits" in the early thirties; high waist-band trousers with many pleats, very-wide padded shoulder jackets with bellowed or pleated backs plus a long gold watch chain to twirl around.
If you were ever in a fight, tell about it.
While working at the Land O' Lakes Creamery pasteurizing and bottling milk and cream I made a two dollar election bet (on Franklin Roosevelt for president in 1938) with a milk truck driver. He wouldn't pay up when he lost so we had a fist fight in the boiler room. I won because I belonged to a boxing team for many years and collected the two bucks and a cut under my left eye from a ring he was wearing. (I still have the scar.)
Tell about your worst report card.
I never had a "bad" report card in elementary school but got a "D" in English when I was a Junior in high school it was a very embarrassing mark and I really deserved it. I got it from my favorite teacher, Mildred Anderson, who was also stage coach when I was stage manager. We got into an extended argument over the usefulness and merit of studying old English authors. I never could understand why we had to memorize what Chaucer and Shakespeare said.
If you had a hero, tell who.
I had two heroes in my life; my best friend Edward Viner who I considered the most brilliant and talented person I've ever known. The other was Charles Lindbergh who represented aviation, not only as a pioneer but as a very intelligent visionary of the need for world resource conservation.
Tell why they were your heroes.
Ed Viner and Lindbergh had one thing in common; they were constantly seeking new knowledge and understanding of people, the world and the universe. Both were pioneers in many fields of endeavor and sought to improve technology and understanding of all living things. And both were creative and very intelligent.
Who was the best teacher you ever had?
Ella Hoglund (later Mrs. Nutter).
What made that teacher good?
She always inspired her pupils with sincere interest in each and every one; there were no "teacher's pets" and no child was too difficult to motivate. Under her positive and friendly attitude, one learned that learning was enjoyable and rewarding. She was a true humanitarian who brought out the best in everyone.
What were your school colors?
Purple and Gold.
What was your school mascot?
For three years (1930-1933) the school had a three foot alligator for a mascot.
Tell any sports you played in Jr. High or Sr. High.
I played tackle on the football team, was a member of a boxing club and a wrestling team. I wasn't much of an athlete but enjoyed the camaraderie.
What was your favorite sport to participate in or watch?
Boxing. I was a charter member of the local chapter of Golden Gloves headed by Gordon Olson.
Did you ever have a "good friend" do something mean to you?
Yes. He wanted to borrow my old bike and when he finally brought it back (a long time later) he had hit a curb and broke the front wheel (the bike had wood rims). He didn't offer to repair it or help get it fixed.
Do you remember a school custodian?
Yes. He was a real hard worker who was physically handicapped (a real bad leg) but he really worked hard to push the big dust mop and broom. He liked to talk about the farm life he used to live (until he was severely injured) and got a job at the high school as janitor.
What is the worst trick that you remember a student playing on a teacher?
I did play a trick on my home room teacher by putting a very fine wire across the seat of her chair and extended it clear across the room and to my desk in the rear where I had hidden a spark coil and batteries. When all was quiet in the room I tuned on the coil and the teacher let out a squeal and jumped up from her chair. She couldn't find what caused her sudden discomfort and never did find out what happened.
What is the worst thing a teacher ever did to a student?
The manual training teacher "knocked out" a smart-alec student who refused to stop chewing gum in class and challenged the teacher to "try and make me stop!" The teacher knocked him out cold with a fist to the chin. The guy deserved it because he was constantly a trouble maker in all his classes.
Tell about your school lunches. Did you have a lunch box? What did you eat?
We carried one-gallon syrup pails for lunch boxes (to country school). It was my job to carry our family's milk jug for all of us. It was a two quart jug and in the winter my mother put chocolate milk or "buttered" milk in it and I'd hang it on the heater stove handle to have it hot for noon lunch.
Did you ever have a crush on a teacher?
I had a sort of crush on one grade school teacher but it was more my admiration for her as a friend and teacher than a physical infatuation.
Do you have any special memories about raking and burning leaves, or mowing the lawn?
Our first little house had a large yard with a very heavy lawn and we had an old cast-iron wheeled reel-type mower that would "choke up" unless you mowed in short, hard pushes. Autumn leaf burning was always on a dirt road and included neighbors leaves (which all the kids brought with bushel baskets).
If you ever played in the leaves, tell about it.
I can't recall ever having a pile of leaves that we didn't play in before burning. That was the most fun of autumn. The smell of burning leaves always brings back the memories of days long ago when we were kids and our kids did the same (jumping in the leaves).
What allowance did you get?
We never had allowances when we were growing up; there just wasn't enough money during the depression years for anything more than necessities. Once in a while an aunt or uncle would give me a dime that I could spend foolishly. Otherwise, we earned money from picking and selling pickles and picking potatoes and corn for neighbors or aunts and uncles.
Did you have to earn it?
The previous question tells it all. Once in a great while we would get a dime or a quarter for birthday or Christmas. Otherwise, all money had to be earned.
What teacher did you dislike the most?
I don't recall disliking any of my teachers but do recall a teacher who "picked on" our oldest son and I went to "have it out" with her. Turns out she was a former Marine Colonel (and lesbian) who didn't like anybody.
I have a strong dislike for any teacher who publicly criticizes or "dresses down" anyone in front of the peers, particularly in a belittling or sarcastic manner.
Relate a story about a mouse in the house.
We had many mice in our house on the farm but always managed to have enough cats to take care of the problem. We did need a mouse to run across the stage for a country school play and it was my job to bring one. I caught two to be sure we had a spare. One was a "house mouse" and the other a field mouse. I put them in a tobacco can in my bedroom to bring to school the next day but they fought and killed each other.
Share a memory about a bat in the house.
My mother was very scared of bats so whenever one got in the house it was my job to catch it. The biggest problem was finding them 'cause they hid in such small places and usually came out only at night. So, it was always a challenge to find the hiding place.
Did you ever have any other strange animal in the house?
When we were growing up we always had "pet" wild animals in the house such as squirrels, gophers, mice, rats, rabbits, chipmunks, and birds of various types(mostly noisy crows).
How did you get to and from school?
We always walked but did get sleigh rides when there was a fierce blizzard or extreme cold.
Tell about pulling or loosing a baby tooth.
My dad was always in charge of "tooth pulling." It always involved quite a bit of talk about "this isn't going to hurt" and much distraction while a stout string was tied to the loose tooth and it never seemed to be just right and then, all of a sudden, the tooth was pulled out without warning (and it didn't "hurt a bit").
Did you ever loose something really important to you?
Yes. During the battle of North Africa I found a quite a few very old coins in the desert near Carthage, (the oldest city in the world!) Most were Roman but several were Egyptian and Persian. Using the brass from a German artillery shell I made a cigarette case with the most precious coins mounted in hand-filled holes in the case (so both sides could be seen.) After several officers had seen it they offered $500 to $2,000 for it (in those days!!) It was stolen along with all my personal family pictures when we went to Italy.
Did you ever lose or break something that belonged to someone else?
I don't recall losing or breaking someone else's property but I sure recall having that problem with my personal belongings!
Where did the clothes you wore come from?
During childhood almost all our clothes came from mail order like Montgomery Wards and Sears Roebuck. Once in a great while we had a treat and shopped in Little Falls for shoes and Sunday suits. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from Carlyle and sometimes from cousins in Duluth. My Aunt Olga made me a very nice warm jacket from "paper mill blanket-cloth" and it was stolen in high school.
Share a favorite fall memory.
We kids had many chores to do on the farm but the last big seasonal chore we hated the most; picking potatoes! It was very hard work but the final reward when the potato vines were raked into piles and burned after the fires died down there was always a few big potatoes that escaped picking and they were roasted black in the fire but were just delicious when you broke open the crust to eat the white, mealy insides. We always had a little salt in our overall pocket for the occasion.
Did you ever pick apples?
Yes! We had delicious apples in our orchard that were delicious. You had choices of sweet and tart (the latter for pies and jellies and jams). The little extra sweet crab-apples were our favorite. Now and then we'd get stomach aches from eating too many.
What is the farthest you ever ran or walked?
When we were training in North Ireland we made 20 mile hikes with full packs and, as we got into better condition we'd (some of us!) would double-time (run) the last five miles. There we practiced hand-to-hand combat; scaling cliffs and barricades and were qualified Rangers when we shipped to North Africa for invasion.
Did your High School have cheerleaders? What did they wear?
Yes. Skirts and sweaters and saddle shoes with bobby socks.
Can you recite any of the school cheers?
"We've got a high school, we've got a yell; we've got a team like fights like ----! Hit 'em high! Hit 'em low! Come on Little Falls! Lets go!
How did your school observe Homecoming?
We had a big bon-fire from boxes, crates, and miscellaneous cardboard and junk we collected from the merchants around town. We even collected a few outhouses from people who had "modernized." I drove a solid-tired, hand-cranked Mack truck that LaFond motor let us use (as long as I was the driver.) There were no homecoming king or queen in those days.
Do you have any special Homecoming experiences to relate?
No, except for the pride I felt at being the only one allowed to drive that old truck. Once we (my friend Ed Viner and I) got some magnesium from the chemistry lab and we would hide strips of it in the bon-fire pile. There would be blinding flair-ups in the fire when the magnesium burnt into flames.
Tell about any other High School extra-curricular activities.
Ed Viner and I were stage managers throughout our High School year and built many scenes one of which called for the sun setting and the full moon rising. We had to build our own rheostats (light-dimmers) and used parts of old electric ranges. One time our sun-setting rheostat (dimmer) caught fire so the sun blinked out rather than gradual dimming of twilight.
Tell a story about a time when you dressed up in a costume.
I was a dance partner for a musical put on by St. Francis High and had to wear white flannels and patent leather shoes (black). It was very formal (and embarrassing).
Share a memory about being very scared.
I've been very scared many times during the war so it's difficult to describe each incident. The most scary incidents were when we were being bombed, strafed or shelled. At those times you never knew which explosives had your name on it.
What did people do at Halloween?
We tipped over out-houses, soaped windows (on the sheriffs car and jail) and tied ankle high ropes between trees on the court house lawn where we knew the sheriff or deputy would be chasing us in the dark. We also helped put a top-buggy on top of the bank presidents house-barn.
Do you have a special Halloween memory?
No. We never went "trick-or-treating" in those days but occasionally ended up in a taffy-pull at some friends home.
Did you ever tell ghost stories?
On rare occasions I told ghost stories based on Dracula or Hounds of Baskerville.
Do you have a good ghost or haunted house story to relate?
I recall very well when the abandoned Kewel Brewery building was "dressed up" as a haunted house and I was a guide for a group of youngsters going through it. I recall being "hung-on-to" by at least a dozen screaming kids at a time.
What is the strangest thing you ever saw in the sky?
In early evening of August 1948 I (and three other guys in a car heading for Camp Ripley) saw an unidentified flying object (UFO) in the eastern sky against a distant cloud bank. It was long-thin cigar-shaped and glowed bluish-white. It made a swooping curve towards the horizon and angled up sharply to disappear in the clouds. It's estimated speed was around 10,000 mph.
When you were a child, how'd you keep your house warm?
Each fall we brought a wood burning heater stove and assembled it in our living room on a special metal faced base. It had icing glass windows so you could se the fire and a flat surface on top where a teakettle of water was kept to help with humidity. Our kitchen cook stove was wood-fired and heated water for bathing, laundry, etc. Also all the cooking was done on it year round.
Who was President when you were born?
At what age did you first vote and for whom did you cast your first Presidential vote?
At age 21 I voted for Thomas Dewey. (He lost to Franklin Roosevelt).
Did you ever see a President or Vice-President in person?
Yes. Truman and Eisenhower. Also when I was on duty at the pentagon I'd get occasional glimpses of Johnson and Kennedy.
Did you ever make a purchase that you later regretted?
Many times! Too numerous to list them all!
When on car trips, did you play "car games?"
Very often, especially when we traveled to the motorhome.
If you had a watch, tell about it.
I have had many watches including a "pocket-Ben" that a neighbor gave to me cause it wouldn't run. I took it apart and fixed it when I was 11 years old. (I made a watch screw-driver out of a darning needle with a Tinker-toy handle).
Do you have an Armistice Day memory?
Yes! The Armistice day storm of 1940 is still very vivid in my memory.
What was your most prized possession as a child?
A cast-iron Fordson Tractor toy and a wooden wheeled wagon.
Do you have a story about standing up against odds for something you really believed in?
Yes. I was strongly opposed to the United States entering the war between Germany and England in 1939-1940. I wrote a "letter-to-the-editor" of the Minneapolis Tribune stating opposition and was chastised years later by one of my military commanders.
Did you ever feel a hatred for another person?
Yes. I have hated Saddam Hussein and Muslim leaders who advocate Christian countries and people who disagree.
Tell about the best birthday present you ever received.
That's easy! "Missy," my dog, who never complains, is non-judgmental and openly and always shows affection.
Was an injustice ever done to you?
Several times but nothing of great concern or consequence. The one I remember best is when United Way (now called United Fund) first started in the early seventies and accepted country chairmanship for the drive. Someone claimed to have found my pledge card in the Camp Ripley dump ground. And offered it as evidence that I didn't contribute. It was clearly a case of "planted" evidence to discredit me.
Share an experience about poison ivy or poison weed.
When we first got our lakeshore lot (where we later built our cabin) there was a lot of poison ivy along the shoreline. Since I was always immune to poison ivy and oak I dug up all the poison ivy and burned it. Suddenly, (because I inhaled the smoke) I was no longer immune and broke out all over my body and took almost two weeks to recover.
Tell about a memorable birthday cake.
All birthday cakes are very memorable and I cannot recall one that was particularly so.
Did you ever have a recurring dream as a child?
Yes. I did a lot of flying and soaring in my dreams. Sometimes I could soar on a coaster-sled and other times on a board or piece of card board. Sometimes I'd just spread my arms and fly. Those were my best dreams.
Did you ever chew tobacco?
Yes. In 1938-1939 I chewed tobacco and snuff when I was picking corn. Another time, in North Africa, honey-cut chewing tobacco was issued in lieu of cigarettes because of war-time black-out restrictions. Sure was a lot of spittin' goin' on!
Tell about someone who had a big influence on your life.
No question about it; my wife, my lover, my friend; the mother of our family, Leone! Her influences has inspired me to do my best for almost a half a century. No other person has ever given me so much to live for and to give true purpose to my life.
What were you doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated?
I was Camp Ripley engineer and was inspecting some building projects when my car-radio announced the assassination. I was deeply hurt by the news.
Share a memory about a weather-related school cancellation.
In the process of raising a family there were many memories of school cancellations due to weather. Most memorable was the winter of 1965 (when total snowfall was 84") when the "boys" had all the snow shoveled (and, later, blown) when I got home from work. There mother wasn't too enthusiastic about weather related "shut-ins."
Tell about Thanksgiving traditions of your youth.
Most easy to remember because we always went to Grandma and Grandpa Jensens for Thanksgiving. Seemed like there were dozens of kids when my mother's sisters and brothers showed up and we all had to wait till the grown-ups had eaten. I still remember the mince pumpkin pies, sugar cookies, and goose, chickens, and guinea hens we had and how delicious everything had tasted.
Share a favorite Thanksgiving memory.
Thanksgiving in 1944 was in the mountains in Italy during the war. Our truck-mounted kitchen cooked turkey with all the trimmings but we had quite a job eating it cause we were being shelled and spent the day in our "fox-holes." It was also very cold and windy. We had four guys wounded by shrapnel.
Do you have any ice skating memories to share?
Yes. In the early thirties (during the depression) the city skating rink was on the north side of the broadway bridge on the river. I had clamp-on skates until I got a pair of very worn and torn shoe skates for 75 cents. I used harness straps to hold them together and skated almost every evening cause there was little else to do (that didn't cost money).
What hobbies or collections did you have as a youth?
My favorite hobby was wood-carving and pencil drawing. My Uncle Al taught me how to do "trick" wood-carving (wood linked chains and "ball-in-a-cage," hinges, etc.) During the depression I sold many wood chains carved from match sticks and tooth picks. I made carving knives out of needles. I don't recall ever "collecting" anything of significance.
Did your Mom or Dad have a favorite remedy for what ailed you?
Poultices made from oat-meal or salt-pork wrapped in stocking were used for infected wounds, swellings, sprains, etc. I only recall one medicine, caster-oil, which we kids always had to take for stomach-ache. Needless to say, we seldom complained of stomach pain. Fevers, soar-throats, coughs, etc. were treated with applications of goose-grease and camphor on the chest. There was no aspirin or other pain medications.
Did anyone from your school or community grow up to be famous?
Our most famous community person was Charles Lindbergh. Also well-known were Gordon Rosemier and John Simonett. Major General Chester (Red) Moeglein, the Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard for many years, was also from Little Falls.
Did you ever have a bad experience with a haircut or a permanent?
No. My mother was a good barber and I never had a "permanent."
Who was your favorite movie star?
Red Skeleton and Bob Hope.
Because they were gifted comedians who knew how to make people laugh without talking "dirty."
Were you ever in a life-threatening situation?
Quite a few times. Car wrecks, submarine attacks, bombings, strafings, and shellings. Also life-threatening was stomach and brain operations.
Do you have any knowledge of how your first name was chosen?
King Harold-of Sweden.
Do you have a Pearl Harbor Day memory?
I vividly recall that fateful Sunday afternoon because, within an hour of the announcement of Japanese bombing, we were packing our gear in Camp Clairborne, Louisiana and heading for Pensecola, Florida to guard the bridges and strategic targets that were considered threatened by fifth-columnists.
Tell about your favorite store to browse in as a child.
West side hardware operated by Martin Engstrom, Charles Lindbergh's close friend and confidante.
What did you like to look at there?
Novelty trick items like cigarette explosives, stink-bombs, fart pillows, trick coins and cards and fake noses and whiskers.
Tell about something you built, designed, or made as a youth.
My first "invention" was a remote controlled kerosene lamp lighter and many different launchers, catapults and cross-bows. Later (in high school) Ed Viner and I designed and built an induction-cooker (similar to microwave ovens), closed circuit TV, a million-volt, Telsa coil, two motorcycle engine driven ice boats, an anti-gravity repulsion coil and a number of gas engine powered vehicles.
Were you ever in a church or school Christmas or Holiday pageant?
Yes, quite a few. My first X-mas verse (recitation) was at our country school district #30, when I was five years old. The next was a year later when I was one of the three kings of orient and had to sing "Myrrh is mine; it's bitter perfume," (etc.) In the seventh and eighth grades I did quite a number of recitations and acts in the Randall Community Hall.
When did you put up your Christmas tree?
We always went into the woods Christmas-tree-hunting a day or so before X-mas. My father would add branches to fill out the tree and everyone helped put on the ice-cycles (thin strips of lead-foil) one at a time (my mother insisted).
Where did you get your Christmas trees?
Our farm had extensive deep forests that had many black spruce on the edge of a swamp. We usually had to cut down a taller tree to get the top for a shapely X-mas tree. We walked about two or three miles across country to get our tree.
How did you decorate your trees?
Lots of tinsel garlands, pop-corn garland cranberry ropes. We had candle holders for wax candles that were lit only on X-mas eve.
Did you ever hang a Christmas stocking?
Tell about the neatest present you remember giving to your Dad.
It was a tobacco pipe with aluminum stem and briar bowl. It came apart easily fro cleaning.
Tell about the best Christmas present you ever received.
Being home for Christmas in 1945 was by far the best present I ever had. It was the first time since 1941.
Tell about the worst Christmas present you ever received.
I don't recall ever receiving a Christmas present that could be called "bad" or "worst." I always treasured gifts no matter how small or insignificant.
Tell about experiences with Santa Claus.
Our family's first Christmas on the wilderness farm west of Randall was the most memorable. My dad had somehow rigged sleigh bells to ring on the top of our house (when everyone was in sight and accounted for). We kids spent many an hour trying to figure out whether it was Santa Claus or a hoax.
Did your family go to a special church service at Christmas? Tell about it.
No. Our family seldom went to church.
When did you open your presents?
Christmas eve after the chores were done (the cows milked and fed, the livestock bedded and the cream separated.
Tell about Holiday celebrations at a relative's house.
The most memorable celebration was always at Grandma and Grandpa Jensen's house (told about elsewhere in this chronicle).
Do you remember a "best" Christmas?
My "best" Christmas was when our entire family gathered in our living room and I called out the names on packages. It was always such a big mess with little faces and eyes shining with excitement and anticipation. As I've stated previously my best Christmas was the first one at home after the war.
Share any other Christmas memory.
My most memorable Christmas was in 1924 when I moved with my Aunt Olga and Uncle Sam to the wilderness farm out west of Randall. I vividly recall the howl of wolves as we went in the dark with a kerosene lantern from the house to the barn.
Do you remember celebrating any special wedding anniversaries of your parents or grandparents?
I clearly recall my mother's parents 50th wedding anniversary south of Little Falls. We grandchildren really enjoyed the homemade ice cream, cookies and cake, the hammock between two trees and the endless cousins to play with. They had an orchard loaded with all kinds of apples and plums.
Do you have any knowledge of the origins of your family name?
Yes. The name means "steel-worker-by-the-water" and originated in Varmland, Sweden. There are a great many Hammerbeck families in the Gotenberg area of Sweden today; many of them distantly related. My grandparents immigrated to America in 1898 and home steaded in Iowa and in Green Prairie where Camp Ripley is now located.
Is there anything else that you would like me to know about your childhood?
Yes. I was privileged to "learn-by-doing" and benefited very much by my fathers guidance and teaching about mechanical things. I also learned a great deal from my Uncle Adolf who was an electrical genius and our bachelor neighbor who was a devout naturalist. I feel very lucky to have lived during a period of vast technological development.
Did you ever make New Year's resolutions as a youth?
Yes. I tried, unsuccessfully, to quit smoking in my teen years.
What special memories do you have of New Year's Eve or New Years Day?
I don't recall any particularly memorable New Years except those during the war which are still almost crystal clear and depressing.