Helen Arlene Boop Fredrickson’s Story:
Grandpas’ farmhouse was snuggled down below a hill in a grove of trees in the country southwest of Kensington. Mama, my older sisters, Gloria and Lila and I lived with Grandpa and Uncle Lawrence.
Grandma Beda had died the year I was born. Mama said that she would lay me on the bed with Grandma when she went out to do chores. So she had to watch me when she was so ill. I couldn’t have been very old as I was born in August and she died that year. Poor Grandma, that must have been hard for her.
.The house faced south towards the barn and the windmill which stood on top of the hill. Next to the windmill there stood a large wooden tank full of water. (So that when the wind didn’t blow there would still be a supply of water for the livestock without us using the hand pump.) The tank was padded on the outside with gunny sacks to keep the water cool in summer and help insulate it from freezing in the winter. Grandpa and Lawrence would pack straw around and on it for the winter. The water tank had a tendency to drip in the northeast corner. In the summertime it was fun to step barefoot into the mud puddle it made there as the mud was so smooth and cool. Mama told me that once my sisters pulled me on the wagon through that mud puddle and tipped me into it headfirst. I came out looking like a little negro baby. Mama said that if the girls hadn’t pulled me out, I would have died. I always felt somewhat beholden to them for that, but vaguely wondered why because after all, they were the ones who had pulled me into it!
Gloria, Lila and I in the spring of 1933.
When I was tall enough to see over the kitchen table Mama and Grandpa praised me for being such a “big girl”. I don’t
think I was such a “big girl” as I guess I threw temper tantrums when I was young. I’d say the old rhyme fit me: There once was a girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead, and when she was good , she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid!
When we would visit Aunt Francis and Uncle Albert, Francis would let me stand on a chair behind her and comb her hair. I never got to comb Mamas’ hair as she never seemed to have time to sit down.
I was pretty little when I stayed with Aunt Ellen one day and we took a nap together. In later years she told me that I laid next to her and whispered, counting my toes and telling stories
to them. Not much of a nap for her!
I had graduated from sleeping in the crib to sleeping with Mama. One night she woke up as I had gotten out of bed and was leaning over the crib. She asked me what I was doing, and I said I was picking apples. Of course, there were no apples there!
Once in awhile I would get to sleep with Gloria. I really liked to sleep with her. I sure don’t know why, as she had this imaginary line down the middle of the bed and if I should get over that line, she would pinch me very hard.
Our house had two stories, with a cellar which you could enter either through a trap door in the kitchen floor or through cellar doors on the north side of the house, which were built in at a slant. Behind the house was a path that led to the outhouse, or “biffy”. In back of the outhouse, in summer tall pigweeds would grow around and through the grove of elm, boxelder, oak
and some apple trees Grandpa had planted. We made trails
through the pig weeds and played games. I would imagine being one of the heroes of Zane Gray stories, and the pigweeds were transformed into tall whispering pines.
In the kitchen we had a sink that was about 30” off the floor. To the right of the sink stood a cistern pump. We would raise the handle up and push down several times to get the water up. Rain water would be collected in a cistern under the northwest corner of the house. We used that water for washing, but we carried our drinking water from the well that was at the top of the hill. Sometimes we could pump and no water came up from the cistern. Then we would pour some water from the reservoir on the old cook stove through the top of the pump and that would prime the pump so that the water would come. One day as Mama was pumping water for me to wash my hands for
dinner, a small frog came up with the water. After that I always wondered how clean our hands were after washing!
Gloria, cousin Vernon and Lila, before they were old enough to get into all their mischief
My cousin Vernon would always come up with exciting things to do when he came to visit. We played cop and robbers, using wooden guns with rubber bands made out of old inner tubes for ammunition. Once he managed to kill a blackbird with it and we cooked it with some dandelions for soup. It wasn’t very tasty! Behind the “biffy” were occasional scenes of Gloria, Lila and Vernon rolling Sears and Roebuck catalog paper around crushed leaves and smoking that. I always gave Mama a running account of all that we did, so when she scolded them and they would ask how she found out, she would say that
a little bird told her. At times, when we needed discipline, Mama would have us go with her to get the thinnest willow whip she could find. The anticipation of that was almost as bad as the licking we would get.
To the north of the outhouse, and somewhat east, we found this dandy tree that grew at a slant and farther up leveled off parallel to the ground. The tree had tin around the bottom of it, so the raccoons couldn’t climb up and get the turkeys that sometimes roosted on it at night. We kids would all climb up there and together with all our weight get it swaying up and down. That was our “airplane”.
We had an entry on the west side of the house and a hive of bees made their home under the entry. One day, while hurrying into the house, as I was very afraid of the bees, one got in my hair. I screamed and cried. Mama was upstairs and called down for Gloria and Lila to stop whatever they were doing to me. Mama finally came down and rescued me from the bee in my hair, and I didn’t even get stung that time.
I suppose I was about five years old when I got whooping cough. Where I got it we never figured out. When I would get a coughing spell I would go outside and sit on the grass and cough straight down. Gloria and Lila never got it from me. We all did get the mumps and chicken pox though.
Summer was a busy time on the farm, but on Sundays we would often meet with Aunt Ellen and family and Alberts’ and we would go to Oscar Lake for a picnic. The frying pan, flour and lard and the coffee pot was mostly all that was required as the men caught fish and cleaned them for the women to fry. Oh what a feast!
We would go to the neighbors to pick plums, which was a treat. I remember that Vernon and I would sit under the plum trees with our buckets and eat and eat plums. I don’t think our
buckets had much in them when we were ready to leave.
Sometimes my sisters and cousins would go swimming in the Chippewa River. The water was pretty cold, but felt pretty good on a hot day. It seems like I would just get into the water and Mama would make me get out as I turned blue. I never was in the water long enough to learn to swim.
In Grandpas’ shed, which was at the top of the hill was a mixture of horse harness parts, boxes, empty barrels that nails and whatnot came in. We rolled out those barrels and proceeded to try our skill at walking on them down the hill towards the house. How we ever managed to master those barrels without breaking an arm or leg is beyond me. But master them we did! And we spent many a day on those barrels.
I remember one day, when Grandpa, Uncle Lawrence and Mama were gone, we pushed Lawrences’ car up the hill and rode it all the way down to the house. We did that several times, but pushing it was hard work so we gave it up after a few times down. One other time when Mama wasn’t around we took her broom, cut off the handle, put two ropes on it and hung it in a tree branch where I proceeded to practice being a trapeze artist. I got so good I could hang by my toes. It was exciting. But that soon faded when Mama found out what happened to her broom.
In the spring Grandpa would make us whistles out of small willow branches. He would pick out straight branches, just the right size, cut them down to five or six inches long, score it all the way around about 2 ½ inches from one end and twist off the scored section. After several cuts with his pocket knife on the bared section of the whistle, he would lick it and slip the section back on. He would make a cut on top to match the cut out of
the branch part of the whistle, and we would eagerly try out our
new whistle (which tasted of snuff, as Grandpa chewed snuff.) In the winter he would take Mamas’ empty wooden thread spools and put a stick down the hole and whittle one end down to make a top. We had fun spinning our new tops.
There was a small pond (we called it a slough) west of the house that cousin Vernon thought would be a fine place for us to be on. So we dragged boards from Grandpas’ shed, found a hammer and some nails, and we made a “raft”. The water was pretty cold, as the only time that there was a good amount of water in it was in the early spring when the snow melted and the rains had come. Gloria, Lila and I got on the raft, Vernon it gave a shove and jumped on too. It floated out to the middle, and we thought it was great fun, But that was short lived, as the raft got hung up on some high ground in the middle of the pond. We pushed and pushed with the stick we had on our “raft” but the raft wouldn’t budge. We had to wade into shore through that ice cold water. And I mean it was cold!
One hot day when Mama, Grandpa and Lawrence were out on the hayfield, Gloria was at the treadle sewing machine. She sewed the needle into her finger. She couldn’t get it out, so I ran out to the hayfield to get Mama. Oh how I hurried. I got so hot! Mama hurried too, and when we got back to the house, Gloria was reading a book, just as calm as you please!
We all looked forward to going to the County Fair in Morris. They always had good programs in the grandstand. We kids didn’t go to them, but Grandpa and Lawrence would tell us about them later. I liked the rides and the “gold digging machines”. I think I spent most of my time trying to get some prize with those machines. I got a jackknife once and another
time a clay pipe which I tried to smoke with, but it got too hot
to hold so I never found out if it was good to smoke! I think Gloria, Lila and Vernon would disappear when it was time to go home. I would get pretty tired before we headed home.
In 1937 I turned 5 in August. The school teacher asked Mama if she wanted to send me to school as Ona Nystuen was the only first grader in school that year. It seems like I struggled to compete with her all through the year in all things. But I loved school.
Our District #10 stood out in the open one-half mile to the south of our farm. In the spring and fall it was a nice walk to and from school, but in winter the wind would catch you, no matter which way it was blowing from. With the cold wind, came snow. Snow that caught against the weeds along side the road and built into large drifts which we had to struggle through. Mama put me in a heavy sheepskin coat, which was really warm, but also heavy and cumbersome. Big sister Gloria would drag me by the arm and run all the way to school, crying because it was so cold, and me crying because my legs weren’t long enough to keep up, and the snow too deep and my coat too heavy. I don’t remember how Lila fared, I was too busy with my own plight.
Our little one room school house boasted a big coal stove with a metal jacket around it. It heated the schoolhouse so we were pretty comfortable. Our teacher made us bundle up at recess time and walk around the schoolhouse several times before class resumed again after lunch. One day I ran around the schoolhouse and slipped at a corner, hit my head on the knee of one of the kids coming from the other way. I had constant headaches most all the rest of that school year.
Early spring brought thawing and freezing. Ice formed on
ponds and sloughs. It was that time of year when the ice took
on a rubbery consistency so that every kid at school tried walking on “thin ice”, or rather trying to see how far out on it we could go before breaking through the ice. The water was very shallow there so we knew there was no danger. There were many pairs of boys’ dark socks and girls flesh colored long stockings hanging to dry on the metal jacket on the coal heater after recess those days. Mama made sure we wore our long underwear and we would roll them up after we got wet so we would just have one wet spot around our leg instead of all the way down.
The best time of day would come after recess when our teacher would read library books to us. The stories transported us to places we had never been and the characters became alive as we experienced the excitement of the stories. When we would have music we would gather around the piano to sing as the teacher played. I remember I would stand on my tiptoes to try to be as tall as Ona, who was in my class, but a year older and taller.
I am in the front Sister Gloria is
with Ona. the back row
Cousin Gladys is
behind me. Her twin sister Irene Lila is behind
is next to her. Irene
We had autograph books that we took to school near the end of the school year, and everyone would write in each others’ books. In the front there was a space for your own name, your favorite color, and favorite sport. I don’t remember what color I wrote, but my favorite sport was “drop the hanky”. I don’t know why, as I never could catch the person that dropped the hanky behind me. I recall some of the sayings some of the kids wrote. One was “Love many, trust few. Always paddle your own canoe”. Another was: Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you. (I think this was the most
used one.) Then there was: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Helen with her baby carriage. Cousin Vernon wrote: When you get married and live by the river, send me a piece of your husbands’ liver. Cousin Gladys wrote: Can’t think, brain dumb, information won’t come.
The only teacher that I can remember her name was Helen Aasen. She was a good teacher, I thought. Christmas time she had us practice for the program, which included glorious skits and memorized pieces as well as songs. I think she had us perform other times of the year, as some of the skits had nothing to do with Christmas. I remember that cousin Irene and sister Gloria had pinafores made and sang the song “Playmates”. I know I was in a skit once where I hid under the table on the “stage “ while someone read “The moon rose, and the light went out” which was my cue to get up from under the table, pick up the lamp and walk out! In another play my dolly had the flu—her legs flew, her arms flew, no wonder she had the flu! In one skit, cousin Irene was a “clerk” of a store, I think I came in and chose a piece of candy. When I asked how much it was, she replied, “Just a little kiss my dear”. I said, “My Daddy will be in to pay for it.” At which point she turned a bright red. -10-
The grownups put on a play once too that I can remember. It was called “Where’s my Pants” and it was kind of a Minstrel Show. Uncle Lawrence and Mama were both in it. They portrayed darkies, and I think my mother was the main character whose pants had the seat ripped out. All that I can really remember about it was that that they tore some material back stage to make it sound like Mamas’ pants ripped.
After the program at the school the men would stack the school desks by the windows and we would all play games and sing. “Go in and out the window”, “Four in the Boat”, “Bingo”, and “The Farmer in the Dell” were some of the ones I can remember.
“Four in the Boat” had words we sang: “Four in the boat and the tide runs high, four in boat and the tide runs high, four in the boat and the tide runs high, wait for the pretty one to come by and by. Choose your partner, don’t delay, choose your partner, don’t delay, choose your partner, don’t delay, we don’t care what the old folks say. Eight in the boat and it won’t go round. Eight in the boat and it won’t go round. Eight in the boat and it won’t go round, bow to the pretty one that you have found. “(I always hoped I would be one chosen, but usually had to just watch.)
We went to Sunday School and Church at Swan Lake Church. It’s real name was Aneas. Grandma Beda was buried there in the church yard, also their daughter Hilma and lots of other Helbergs. Years later Grandpa and Uncle Lawrence were buried there too. I remember walking with my sisters to Sunday School with my nickel offering tied in the corner of my hanky. It was quite a long way, I’m sure Mama took us by car most of the time.
We had a battery operated radio and looked forward to listening to “I Love A Mystery” with Jack Armstrong, “The All
American Boy” with adventures of Jack, Doc and Reggie. We also listened to “The Shadow”, Fibber McGee and Mollie, where Digger O’Dell would say as he left “I better be shoveling off”, Gangbusters in the evening and Mama listened to Oxydols’ Own “Ma Perkins” during the day.
It got dark early in the wintertime and so we usually went to bed quite early. One evening, our neighbor, Ferdie Nystuen (Onas’ father) walked across the field to our farm and said he heard on the radio that creatures from outer space had landed on earth. We tried our radio, but the battery was dead, so we bundled up and walked back to Nystuens. The pale yellow glow of Uncle Lawrences’ lantern cast eerie shadows that evening as we trudged through our pasture to our neighbors house. The night sounds had a dead dull ring, adding to the forboding feelings I had. We often walked across the field to listen to “Gang Busters” with our neighbors. Which meant a weekly visit to over there.
Ferdies’ wife Esther and their three children, Ardis, Ona and Carmen were huddled around the radio. We usually greeted each other with friendly chatter, but that night, after just a brief acknowledgement, their eyes returned to the radio. The horror of the reports numbed all into silence. So far, there were no reports of the invaders reaching Central Minnesota. On the announcer went as in my minds eye I could picture what was happening. A tightness squeezed my chest so that I could hardly breathe. It wasn’t until the end that we realized that it was just a story. An audible sigh of relief escaped from each of us. Uncle Lawrence spit his snooze into the spittoon standing in a prominent spot near the radio. Taking a new pinch of Copenhagen, he cleared his throat and said, “I kinda figured all along that it was all made up.”
The moon had come up, and as we headed for home, it
bathed the stubble field and pasture with a soft and friendly light. Uncle Lawrence stopped and pressed the lever to lift the glass on the lantern and blow out the light. No need to waste kerosene as the moon showed us the way home. There was a different feeling in the air as we silently walked home, each one of us lost in our own thoughts. The crisp air seemed to give me a feeling of lightness – close to giddiness. The stars were twinkling between the deep darkness of space. I wondered if there really were creatures in outer space. I shuddered, then mentally argued with myself that if there were they probably were friendly. As Mama tucked me into bed again that night, I breathed a prayer of thanks that the story wasn’t real. Then I went to sleep wondering if someday it would be
The whole week following the presentation of “The War of the Worlds”, no matter what we talked about, the subject would always return to Orson Wells’ frightening account of outer space invaders. We heard later that people had actually taken their own lives in order to escape the unknown terrors of the invaders. Gradually the episode was put away back in our minds and things returned to normal.
Winter evenings were a time when Grandpa would tell us stories of his childhood and the hardships he went through. We would sit around the heating stove, and we watched the dancing glow of coals showing through the icing glass on the door of the stove as he told us about his life. Grandpa played an important part in my life, as did Lawrence. I never knew my Dad and I would often dream up things I would say to him if we ever met. Sometimes they were good things and sometimes not so good.
Grandpa told how when he was little they didn’t have anything in the house to eat so his Dad went out and shot a
deer. That was against the law, and he was put in jail. Many nights they went to bed hungry.
Grandpa was farmed out at a very young age. He had a very cruel master and if he could not do the chores fast enough, he would be beaten on his back. Those beatings left many scars. When he was about 17 his sister who had immigrated to America sent money for passage to America. He had no money for food, and he scrounged through the garbage that the wealthy passengers left on their plates after meals. Some days he would find quite a lot, sometimes not much of anything. When his sister met him in America, she would not take him with her until he had shed all his clothes and got rid of all the lice he had gotten on the ship.
In America he worked for a farmer and was told to milk the cows. They never owned any cows and in Sweden the women did the milking. Grandpa had no idea how to milk a cow. He tried pumping the tail, and that didn’t work. The farmer had to show him. That farmer was a hard taskmaster too.
Grandpa had many experiences that he told us about. We looked forward to his stories after supper and all the chores were done.
Mama went out to do chores with Grandpa and Lawrence and one morning I got up before they came back into the house. It was cold in the kitchen, so I wadded up a bunch of newspaper and stuck it in the stove except it wouldn’t all go in, so I pulled it out. It was on fire, so I dropped it. It started burning an old jacket lying in the corner by the door. The only thing I could think of to do was to stamp on it, so stomp I did till I got it out. Gloria and Lila were sleeping upstairs, and who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t got it out.
I remember when we had a bad snow storm and the folks couldn’t get out to the barn for several days. I don’t remember
the folks talking about how the animals fared without water, feed and being milked but I don’t think we lost any. After the weather settled down and we could go outside, I remember walking on top of the hard snow drifts and touching the tops of the trees.
Ona Nystuen and her family moved on, and Albert, Frances and Cousin Vernon moved into the farm across the field from us. Now we had the instigator of most of our adventures close by. I remember one time when we were together Vernon decided he would sure like some of Mamas’ rhubarb sauce. Instead of asking Mama for some, and I’m sure she would have given it to us, Vernon decided we would go into the basement by the cellar door on the outside of the house and help ourselves. So we went down in the cellar as quiet as we could, Vernon grabbed a quart jar of sauce and we hurried out and we proceeded to eat the whole quart. We didn’t notice that the sauce had mold on it. We both had stomach aches from it and barely had time to take turns in the outhouse!
In the summertime Mama made home brew beer in the entry off the kitchen. We thought it was fun helping with capping the beer bottles. On hot days when Lawrence and Grandpa were haying Mama would have me go out to the hayfield with some cold brew for the men. It was a refreshing welcome treat for them.
One day Vernon, Gloria and Lila crept down in through the cellar doors and took a bottle of beer. After they had shared it, they filled it with water and put it back on the shelf. Mama was pretty proud of her beer as it turned out real good. So when Albert came to our house one day, she opened the trap door in the kitchen and brought up a bottle of beer for Albert to taste. He took a drink and said, “Anna, it tastes like water” so Mama
tasted it too and said, “It is water!”. It didn’t take them long to
figure out what happened.
We had milk cows which Mama, Lawrence and Grandpa milked by hand. I liked that barn, the coziness of it—the cute kittens that waited in the aisle for some one to give them some warm foamy milk to drink. I liked the sound of swish, swish of Mama milking into the milk pail. I liked the wooden 3 legged stools they used for milking. I never did figure out how to sit on one without tipping. Even today, a feeling of nostalgia comes over me when I think about that barn, or smell new mown hay, etc.
We often played hide-and-seek in the haybarn. In the fall the haymow was so full of hay that we could hardly get up there, but by midwinter there was room to climb up on the sweet smelling hay, and walk to the far end of the barn. There was a ladder at the south end of the barn, leading to a small platform from which you could reach the guide rope which stretched across the length of the barn. During haying season, that was the rope which towed in the slings of hay from the hay wagon. We would climb out on that rope, hand over hand, never fearful because of the soft cushion of hay under us. We never strayed to the edges of the haymow as every 10 feet there was a square hole through which Grandpa and Lawrence would push hay down to feed the cattle.
On a sunny day you could see golden shafts of sunlight extending from the small windows up as high as the platform, and down onto the hay. You could reach your hand to it, almost expecting to be able to touch it, but your hand would only disturb the fine dust particles that appeared gold in the sunlight. We used to swing on the ropes that stretched the length of the barn. It was fun until once I fell and got the wind knocked out of me. I thought for sure I was going to die. I
guess after that I was a little more cautious about how I performed on that rope!
Grandpa had a half sister, Anna Brandvold and family that lived in Moorhead. We would take a trip there probably once a year. They had a daughter named Jeanette who was somewhat older than Gloria. She would proceed to tell us dirty stories and sing dirty songs. We had never been exposed to anything like that ever! I am afraid I still remember some of the words of the songs she taught us! One time when we came home from there, we found out we brought bedbugs home with us. They sure can bite, and they sure can move fast. We had to wash all our clothes and bedding in hot water. Mama had to take our bed springs outside and use kerosene on them. Then meticulously she checked the seams in each mattress and killed any bedbugs she saw.
Jeanette Brandvold, Uncle Lawrence, Anna Brandvold and Grandpa John
We moved to Kensington where Grandpa had a house. I think Uncle Albert and family moved to the farm with Grandpa.
We started school in town when I was in fourth grade. I remember I had creamed peas for supper the night before and I was so nervous at starting in a new school that I promptly threw up all over my desk the first day!
After getting adjusted to the “town school”, I spied a boy in my grade that looked very much like a monkey. I was so excited when I got home, I told Mama about the boy. I had fallen in LOVE! Sad to say he never ever noticed me in all our years in school. I finally got over him.
I got so that I liked living in town. Mama went to work in the general store and made $15.00 a week. The family that lived across the street had a boy my age. I made him play dolls with me and he let me smoke his Dads’ cigarettes with him. Maybe it was only once or twice, but we felt it was really daring.
Uncle Lawrence and Uncle Albert, Aunt Lillie and Aunt Ellen
My Aunt Lillie and family lived a few miles south of Kensington. In summer, I would go out there as often as I could. She and Uncle Willie had three little boys that I
enjoyed playing with. I would lay under the babys’ crib and rock it back and forth to put him to sleep. I felt quite important helping out. I also liked to wash the boys’ hands at mealtime. They were not very happy with me helping them. In fact, Myron would pinch me sometimes to show that he could have done better himself. When Lillie had time she would sit at the piano and play hymns and we would sing together.
As I grew into the teen age years, we girls would meet up town evenings and walk around or sit on the bank steps and visit. There wasn’t much to do in town. They did have free shows on the grassy slope behind the café that the businesses sponsored on Saturday evenings to bring people into to town to
shop. We looked forward to those. I remember that they had sequels to Hop-a-Long Cassidy movies.
My girl friend Betty would come over and spend time with me. We would listen to country songs where they would sing of their lost love and we would sit and cry at the sadness of it all. In later years a neighbor of mine called them “Those crybaby songs”
We discovered that the bus line went from Kensington to Glenwood, and then another bus came through Glenwood several hours later and came through Kensington allowing us to take the bus to go roller skating at the pavilion near Lake Minnewaska. We even used it to go to a few movies in Glenwood too.
There was a small pond just south of Kensington that we gathered at in the winter to go ice skating on. We would build a big bonfire so we could see where to skate and to also warm up at. We would play “crack the whip”. We were just lucky that no one got hurt!
We started going to church and Sunday School in the Augustana Lutheran Church which stood on top of a hill on the
east side of town. If we would whisper or giggle during church, Mama would give us a warning look which stopped us right there! Joyce Wetterling played for the services, and the three fold Amen she played at the end of the service was so reverent a closure to the worship service.
The adults had a Cantata for Easter one year. It was so good. Mama sang alto for it. Jerry Wetterlings’ (the boy across the street) dad sang bass, and there were lots of other good singers but I can’t remember who. I would dearly love to hear that Cantata again.
I am in the front row holding my Bible.
I was confirmed June 10th, 1945. I don’t remember if I had a new dress as we wore robes, but Mama gave me a pink and
blue necklace. We girls were nervous and did some giggling, but we knew the seriousness of our vows. On Friday nights my girlfriend and I would start out walking north of town where there was a roller skating rink and we didn’t have to worry about being on the road. We would always get a ride both ways hitch hiking back then. I was never good at roller skating, but we sure had fun. -20-
I joined Girl Scouts for awhile, went to meetings and was involved in some activities. Once we had a treasure hunt, and one of the things we were to bring back was a poem about us girls written by a bachelor in town. So we went to his home and he found a fairly large scrap of paper and proceeded to write his poem. It took him a while and by the time we got back with it, the other teams had all brought their treasure hunt articles in, so needless to say, we did not win. We discovered that when the scrap of paper with the poem on it was turned over, it was also written on that side! The poem went like this: On the top steps of the bank one night, there sat some girls in the pale moon light, waiting and hoping the time was near, when they would be dated by some boyfriend dear. One was the daughter of Walt in the store, one was the sister of Lester Stavos. Another the smaller of this merry group, was also well known, the cute Helen Boop. Andersons Virgin and Monicals’ doll, were somewhat reluctant to join them at all. And so they would tarry both early and late, while each one was waiting to be asked for a date. By some swell admirer of their own type, who really could wait till the berries were ripe. (This was probably the only time I was called “cute”!)
Mama started dating after we moved to town. She would bring her date in for coffee after their movie, and if I didn’t like him I would throw pillows into the kitchen. I should have had a spanking for that, but Mama never said anything about it. Poor Mama, I was a real trial for her.
In June of 1945 Mama married Paul Gustafson. Everyone called him Gust. I liked him. He was good natured and kind. He had five sisters and two brothers. We got acquainted with them. They were a light hearted family and full of fun.
Pastor Anton Chell, Mama, Gust, Aunt Francis and Uncle Albert
Mom and Gust bought the café in Kensington. We helped out some after school. We had a phonograph that cost a nickel to play. There was a certain teacher that we didn’t especially like that would come in for supper. She mentioned that she did not like a certain song on the nickelodeon. So we made sure that we played it when we saw her coming. That ended when one day we didn’t play it when she came in, and she went over to the nickelodeon and put her own nickel in and played it! We also treated our friends to ice cream and shakes when we were left in charge of the café. In fact, I even helped myself to a package of cigarettes, and my friend Ruth and I smoked a few. (By that time, the Wetterlings had moved from across the street and the Stevensons lived there. So now I had a girl to chum with.) I remember one day, after we had tried our cigarettes
we were standing at the piano practicing a song for church. Mama was playing for us. When we finished the song, she turned around and said “What do you think Jesus thinks of your singing with smoke smell on your breath?” I hadn’t thought about that, so that was the end of our smoking!
We had a Junior Choir and we were asked to sing at the different churches in the area. I loved the old hymns we sang, and I still do. I don’t remember who drove us to those different churches. I think we were seven or eight of us. One church we were at, when the Pastor led in the Lords’ Prayer, much to our shame, we all got the giggles as his voice sounded like a dive bomber.
When Gloria and Lila announced that they were getting married, we had a shower for them in our church basement. We had enjoyed getting acquainted with Gusts’ relatives. One of Gusts’ nephews, Dennis Lorenz, had a very good singing voice, so we asked him to sing. He learned the song, did a good job at practice, but wasn’t sure he would remember the words, so we
wrote them down and gave him the copy. At the shower, he started singing, then paused as he had forgotten the words. My friend Ruth and I sat in the front row and whispered to him “the words!”. He said, “O, the words!” and pulled his hands out from behind his back, and started singing the words he held in his hand. It was funny!
Gloria and Lila got married at the parsonage in Kensington. Reverend Anton Chell was the Pastor. I was outside as we weren’t asked to be there. John Chell (the pastors son) and one of his little friends were on the sidewalk with their wagon. John let his friend take his turn. (The sidewalk slanted down towards downtown). With one knee in the wagon and the other
leg pushing to go faster, it turned into quite a ride. John stood up near the parsonage encouraging his friend on. “Give her
Hell! Give her Hell!” That is all I can remember of Gloria and Lilas’ wedding day!
Grandpa moved into town with us. It was fun to watch him when he took a nap. He would snore and his mustache would wiggle up and down. I think he wasn’t feeling well when he left the farm. It was hard to see him get sick. They had a funeral for Grandpa after he died, and that was my first experience with death. I was shocked to see that people ate lunch and visited after the funeral!
After Grandpa died, Mom and Gust decided to move up north near where Gusts’ brother Carl and family lived. They sold the café and bought a small farm north of Itasca Park about 12 miles, and 2 miles west of Alida store. I didn’t want to move with them, and begged to spend the summer in Grandpas’ house and work for the ones who bought our cafe, which I did. I would come home at night after working in the café, and it seemed like I could hear Grandpa calling me. But he wasn’t
there. After Grandpa had moved to town with us, we had spent many an evening alone together, just the two of us while the
folks tended the café. He liked to eat cold potatoes with sour cream on them for supper. I don’t remember what I ate but that didn’t sound good to me. Then he would read, and I would take out the hymn book and look at the notes and do a fair job of singing the songs, even though I had not heard the melody of some of them. I sure missed Grandpa not being there with me. In the morning I would go up to the café for breakfast and every now and then there would be a tramp sleeping beside the railroad tracks that I had to pass on my way home in the evening. I really believe that God kept me safe that summer. I found out it wasn’t fun to stay in Kensington alone, so after
awhile I went up to Alida to be with the folks.
Upper Rice Lake joined Mom and Gusts’ farm to the west. In the fall the Indians would camp there and harvest the wild rice using their canoes. They would set up a barrel on legs so they could turn it. Then they had a fire under it to parch the rice that they put in the barrel. Jean and I would go down there in our “bug” and watch them. The bug was from an old truck with the cab and box removed. We had fun driving it.
Jean told me her brother Peter was coming home from the Marines. I don’t know how it happened, but I first met him at the “Big Corner”. I think Jean and I had been out walking. Anyhow, I was really impressed by this good looking brother of hers, with his lots of dark hair and black and white lumberjack shirt on! The “Big Corner” was 1/8 mile south of the Fredrickson farm and ½ mile east of my folks’ farm.
Lawrence moved up from the farm near Kensington and bought a small house at Alida corner. Lawrence farmed with Mom and Gust. Gust also had a truck route where he hauled cream to the creamery in Shevlin. The farmers had water tanks to keep their cream cold and sweet, so when Gust loaded the cans, he would get wet feet. In the years following, he got arthritis which was very painful. His feet became deformed so he had to cut slits in his shoes to make room for his gnarled feet. He would sit by the stove with the oven door open and the heat lessened the pain. I never heard him complain although he must have been in constant pain.
I started school in Bagley in my freshman year. I was off to a bad start the first day there too. The principal, Mr. Kenneth Thompson, handed out the schedules at the beginning of the first period, and he said “Here is someone you can pronounce her name backwards or forwards. He corrected himself after he
said it wrong, but by that time everyone had laughed and I was really embarrassed! (My last name was Boop.).
I rode the bus, and Uncle Carl Gustafson drove it. It had a pipe down the middle, and benches that ran the length above it. I found out how hot it was when I burned my leg on it one day. The next year Lawrence Prescott drove, and I think Carl went out repairing elevators like my uncle Albert did. Carl and Albert worked at Itasca Park in later years.
We visited Carl and Selma down by the Mississippi river, and I became good friends with my “new cousins’. We search for snapping turtles down by the river, and just generally had a good time. It was fun to listen to Selma and the boys play songs. Leroy played the drums, Donnie the guitar, Silas corded on the organ, and Selma played her accordion. Donnie told me that when they got company, even if it was late at night, Selma would wake the boys and they would play into the wee hours of the morning. They were a fun loving family.
On the next page is a picture of us down at Carl and Selmas’.
We had to go down Mississippi hill, turn right, and drive around the Bratlien farm, go down the hill, and cross a little bridge over the Mississippi River.
Carl Gustafson (Gusts’ brother), Mama, Gust, Pete Bergquist
Selmas’ father, Donnie, Leroy and Lila.
Gloria and Lila had moved out to Lead, South Dakota after they got married. Otto and Bobby worked in the gold mines out there. Mama and I rode out to South Dakota with Ted Palm and visited them. We went up to the cemetery in Deadwood where Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok were buried. The local radio was interviewing visitors that day and he interviewed us. He asked us where we were from and we felt very important being interviewed. When we decided to go home we hitch hiked home. I don’t remember who all we got rides with, but the last one was going into southern Minnesota. He took all the curves at 85 miles an hour and we were very
scared. We were very thankful to get home alive!
When I was a Junior in High school, for the Jr.-Sr. prom, I was on the program and had my face blackened like a negro. I had to read a “Bear Rabbit” story using a Negro accent. I couldn’t tell you who else was at the prom except Peter was there with his date. I was SO embarrassed!
During the winter, Shevlin had roller skating in the town hall Friday evenings. I don’t remember if I drove in or if I caught a ride with someone, but I know I really enjoyed roller skating. Then Saturday nights they had dances there.
They had a pavilion at Roy Lake and we went to some dances there. Cousin Donnie tried to teach me to jitterbug, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. A girlfriend of mine from Kensington went with me one time. I don’t remember who we got a ride with. We were always bumming rides.
The summer between my Junior and Senior year, Helen Bratlien and I worked at the Felix Café in Gonvick. We rented a room upstairs in Gerda Allens’ home. The hardest part for me
of working at the café was holding the electric mixer for beating seven minute frosting as I was so short and the mixer so heavy. We went roller skating some at Pine Lake that summer, but otherwise it was pretty uneventful.
I dated some of the local boys. This one time I went with two brothers to a movie in Bagley. They laughed all the way to town. I had no idea what was so funny. Maybe because I agreed to go with both of them to the movie. We held hands at the movie theater, and when I got home my hands smelled barn pretty bad. So much for dating either of them again.
Peter had started dating me during my last year of high school and he took me to the Senior Prom.. Mom bought me a white formal with ¾ length sleeves and a peplum. It was very nice. I don’t remember what we had for our banquet, or what the program was like. I just knew I was on cloud nine, having Peter for my date!
He took me to movies in Bagley and dances in Shevlin that winter. Buddy Teigland also went along with us. Peter would dance a few dances with me, then he would leave me in the dance hall by myself and go have some socialable drinks with Buddy. I would usually end up driving them home. In the winter it would be so cold sometimes that the tires would be square on the bottom and go thump, thump until they warmed up. Why I kept going with him is beyond me!
Rae Kibbee, Shirley Felt and I would get asked to sing for different programs. Rae lived in the little house on the west side of Alida church. Shirley Felt lived down near Sell Lake church. Raes’ dad, Charlie, belonged to the Farm Bureau and would have us sing at a lot of meetings. We’d ride in the backseat of his old car and in the wintertime cover with a quilt
and still be cold. In spite of that, we enjoyed our times together.
I taught Sunday School at Alida church for several years. I remember one day after I read the story of Mary and Martha I proceeded to ask the primary students questions, and I asked “why did Mary sit at Jesus’ feet?” One of the kids answered “feet cold?” Needless to say I had to do some explaining.
Peter let me take his 1947 Pontiac to our Senior picnic at Itasca Park. It was a pretty turquoise color—and it could go pretty fast too! I had gotten my license for 35 cents. We didn’t have to take any tests or eye exams back then.
We had some pretty good snows that winter. Peter would come over on his tractor and plow out our yard. He looked so handsome on that tractor, with a scarf around his neck, and wearing that black and white lumberjack shirt! I definitely was hooked! One night Peter took me on a hayride out at his brother Buds’ farm. I took one of Mamas good blankets with to keep me warm. I lost it on the ride, and never did find it. I felt real bad as we didn’t have very many nice ones.
I was concerned that Peter wasn’t baptized, and while he was in the hospital (It was in the building east across the street from the Laundromat) the Pastor from St.Paul Lutheran Church visited him, and Peter had him baptize him. Peter had hernia repair. No wonder, as he would stack the 100 pound sacks of potatoes as high as he could reach!
I graduated from Bagley High School in 1949. My grade point average was 93.3 which was third from the top, and 6 tenths of a point lower than the salutatorian, but I really had to study for that! I worked at the Farmers Independent that next summer. I rode with Howard Branigan who lived southeast of Alida, so he would pick me up on his way to work at the REA
in Bagley. We would visit the whole way, and I would tell him of my plans to go on to school to be a teacher.
When Peter proposed to me that fall, I promptly forgot my plans of going on to school and said “Yes”. We didn’t have a Pastor at Alida church at that time, so we asked Spencer Bower from Grace Chapel if he would marry us. Spencer had been helping with harvest so we knew him. We called him “The Flying Minister” as he had an airplane at his place. When he
counseled us, he asked if we wanted a marriage or a wedding. I had no idea what he meant. I still remember him asking us that. I guess we had both!
Since then we have lived and stored up a lifetime of memories, and if the Lord wills that I should tell some later, I will do so. A lot of them you had a part in making too. So until then, God Bless you!
December 10, 1949
Spencer Bower, pastor
Sonny Fredrickson-Best Man
Connie Fredrickson-Flower girl
My Aunt Francis and Me