In 1932, the Dort
I remember when I was just a little guy – I must have been maybe five- or six-years old and my dad had an old car called a Dort. It had a little cut-out device on the exhaust so that it would bypass the muffler and make a lot of noise — roaring noise. Plus the exhaust used to go straight down from the pipe onto the road and when you would open up the cut-out, it would blow up a big cloud of dust so you couldn’t see all around the car. There was this one guy that nobody liked. So when we used to go past his place, my dad would open up this cut-out and deliberately make a whole bunch of dust so that the guy would be shaking his fist at us and cussing us out. My job used to be (when I was a little guy) to pull the little wire that would lift the cut-out away from the exhaust and open it up. And then when we were driving along, my dad would say “No… Not yet. Let me tell you when.” So then he would say, “Now you can,” and I would pull up on the wire that went through the floor board and then the car would make a roaring sound and the dust would blow up. We thought that was a pretty good joke.
I remember some of the parties we had. My mother’s father would come over, I called him Grandpa Brada, and there was a relative, Nick Brady (married to Strina). They used to come over to the old house. They both had cars called Whippets that were notoriously famous for not starting as soon as it got down to zero or so. You had to crank them with a crank and even then they wouldn’t start. After a dinner and celebration, they wanted to go home and tried to crank up the old cars which wouldn’t start. I remember Nick Brady was so mad, he said “You darned rotten car. If they don’t want to start – don’t want to run – I’ll fix it so you can’t see.” And he took the crank and he smashed the headlight out which was sitting right on the fender. Everybody was laughing about that.
I can remember when Dad got the newer car after the old Dort gave out. He got a car called the Oakland. About the only thing I remember about it was that it was a sedan (a four-door sedan), and it had wooden wheels. The spokes in it were wood. The wheels would deteriorate and fall apart and I remember that once in a while Dad would have to go over to the junk yard in St. Cloud and get another wheel so he could replace the broken one.
The Willys Knight
They had something called a Willys Knight, which was a great big thing like a hearse. It had big high wheels and the wheels were so big that it would go through the biggest of snow drifts. We used to go cross-country through the fields to try to avoid the big snow drifts that were on the road in order to get to town for church or to get supplies.
It was a big treat for youngsters when in the Bowlus Park, every Friday night during the summer they would have free movies. Somebody would come out with a projector and a sheet. Everybody would be sitting on their hands or knees or legs crossed or whatever or bringing their own chairs to watch the movie. Boy! That was the only time we had a movie when we were younger. I remember there was one particular time that we were all sitting around and it was just starting to get dark and almost ready to start the movie. Some girls were running around – goofing off – and they ran and got their legs tangled up in the electric wires that they had lying on the ground to run the projector. As a result, they jerked the projector and it fell off the little stand or table that it was on and got busted. So we didn’t have a movie that particular night. Boy was that ever a disappointment! Everybody was really sad.
Making Hay during the Depression
Some of the things we used to do with the horses on the farm during the Great Depression when nothing would grow – not even grass – and we didn’t have enough grass and hay to feed the animals: There was a place by Little Falls, practically right on the edge of town, where some guy had some low-laying, meadow-type of grass. There was enough moisture in there so there was a crop of grass. My dad bought that grass standing and we went with the team of horses and cut it with a horse-driven mower and when it was dry raked it up on the hay rack. It was a big journey that took hours to get from Little Falls back to the farm. It was practically an all-day job to load up the hay and bring it back. Boy! I remember that was quite an ordeal. It was how we managed to get by — so then we had enough meadow hay to feed the horses, and the cattle especially. It was so dry that nothing would grow; during the Depression there was no rain for months on edge.
Eggs and Cream
When we milked the cattle, we didn’t have any place to keep the cream that they separated. So they had to put it in cream cans – metal cans – and put it in the stock tank where the cows would drink out of on the outside of the barn. It had a little cooling tank that went from the inside of the barn to the outside and we would pump water from the well through this small tank. That would cool down the cream that they separated, so that it wouldn’t spoil until they could haul it to the creamery the following day. They used to haul cream every day. Usually several of the farmers would get together and they would take turns transporting these cans of cream over to the creamery where they would make butter out of it. When they would make butter, the by-product was buttermilk, which in those days they didn’t do anything with except send it back in your cream can and you would feed it to the hogs. So things have improved greatly.
When they would haul the cream to the creamery, they would also pick up groceries at the little store in Elmdale. There was one grocery store. My mother used to order over the telephone to the grocery store and order different groceries. And then whoever hauled the cream cans to the creamery would swing by the grocery store and pick up the groceries. They would charge it on your bill and then when you got your “cream check” at the end of the month, or whenever they paid, then you would settle up with the grocery guy to pay your bill. This same grocery store guy would buy the eggs. So they would send the eggs in and he would check them out and decide what grade you had. Usually he was the kind of character that would always find that most of your eggs were small instead of large. So you had to take his word for whatever he felt like giving you for your eggs. He would credit your account with that.
The Old School
I was in the fourth grade and I went to school one morning and it was really, really foggy. You could see only a short distance ahead of you. When I got to school, which was about half a mile or so away from our farm house, the school had burned down during the night. It was an old school. We had no indoor plumbing — we had outhouses. The school had a big wood-burning stove. I guess the teacher really stoked up the stove that night. Either he didn’t check the draft or it got so hot that it overheated and set the school on fire. We had a vacation until they fixed up the neighbor’s granary. They made big long benches and desks. We had to finish 4th grade in this neighbor’s granary.
4-H Club Projects
When I was young on the farm, one of the things we had for activities was an organization called 4-H Club. Everybody had a project. I had a lamb or baby sheep when it was real tiny and I fed it with a bottle. The lamb had a little pen and we kept it there until it got pretty big so we wouldn’t have to worry about it getting out. It used to run around all over the farm and follow you wherever you went. I called her “Louise” … that was my pet sheep.
I remember another year, I had a pet pig. I don’t remember if I had a name for it. He was separate from the rest of the pigs and we grazed him – or fed him – when he was a little piggy. When he got pretty big, we took him to the County Fair in Little Falls. A truck came by and picked up all of these animals for the fair. This was one of the first times that I ever spent away from home. We actually slept right in the pig barn where the pigs were. There was a stall and we had a bunch of hay — that’s where I slept with the pig. I didn’t win any prize, but it was quite an experience and the first time I was ever away from home.
Posted in minnesota, morrison county, morrison county historical society, the charles a. weyerhaeuser memorial museum, what's it like in morrison county
Tagged 4-H projects, bert rudie, eggs and cream, elmdale, feeding cream to hogs, raising lamb for 4-H, raising pig for 4-H, school burned, selling eggs, taking cream to the creamery
Building the New Farm House
It was around 1938 or 1939 when my parents decided to replace or build a new house on the farm. I just happened to think of this … in the old house, one of the reasons that we tore it down was that my mother was so scared to live in it. With the wood burning, they had two chimneys. They had the kitchen stove that burned wood and then they had a heater in the middle of the living room. Creosote built up in the chimneys from the natural burning of the wood and every once in a while the chimney would catch on fire. It would be roaring and cracking and my mother was just afraid that it was going to burn the house down. One time there was such a fierce fire and I was in the upper attic section above the kitchen stove. The chimney was so hot, if you touched the chimney, it was just like a hot stove. My dad would go up on the roof to put on salt or use a chain to knock the thing down. He had me sitting one time with several pails of water by the chimney. He says, “In case it cracks and starts burning, dump some water on it so it doesn’t set the rest of the house on fire.” Some scary moments we had once in a while — that was the life … we were quite used to it. Before the old house was torn down, every fall my dad put a wood-like partition around the foundation of the house. He went to the saw mill in town where they sawed the logs and got loads of sawdust for a two-foot-wide box that they had – like a fence – filled it up with sawdust about three- or four-feet high. That kept the house a little bit warmer from the northwest wind that would blow in. The house sat on a kind of stone foundation and there were cracks in it. If you were in the basement, you could almost see daylight through some of the cracks around the stones — that’s how crummy it was.
We tore down the old house and salvaged as much lumber as we could. We all lived in the big garage that we had. And that’s where we slept while they were building the new house which took like over a year to build. In the new house, they put in indoor plumbing. They dug a trench that went down in the swamp for draining away the toilet and waste water.
Dad had the house wired for electricity—even when there was no power line anywhere near at that time. But dad says “We’re gonna have the house wired in case the power comes through some day.” In the meantime he put in a 32-volt generating system. We had an engine in the basement with the exhaust pipe out through the side of the house. We had like 16 or 18 jars, each one of them had 2 volts and there were great big giant cells or glass containers. We had to recharge the batteries every so often, so everything was on 32-volts. We had lights! We had bulbs, three 2-volts and motors and stuff. We rigged up an electric water pump so we could pump water.
They dug a big trench that went from the well alongside the new house over to the barn. They dug it down below the frost line – about seven feet deep – and put in pipes. We had a big cedar storage tank in the upper level of the barn that held hundreds of gallons of water that provided water for the drinking cups in the new barn for the cattle to drink. They had to pump water and whenever it ran empty, refilled this tank so that the cows would have plenty of water.
Washing clothes in the old days before the automatic washers and before any wringer washer: My mother had a wooden tub washing machine. It was made like a barrel, only it wasn’t curved. It was more upright. It had an arrangement where there was a pulley and a gizmo that used to go from the top and from the lid. There was a hinged lid and the lid lifted up. It was a thing that looked like a milk stool that had four legs on it or four little arms and that was the agitating device. It was suspended from the lid and when you closed the lid, there was a little bar with some gearing teeth on it that would go back and forth. It was connected to a pulley and it was run by a stationary gas engine with a flat belt on it that would turn and make the washing machine work. I remember that my mother was so disgusted and used to cuss this old thing out because the belt would always keep jumping off. She would have to stop and put the belt on. I remember when I was pretty small I had this job of standing there with a board and keeping this belt from falling off from the two pulleys: one on the washing machine and one on the gas engine. I was helping her and standing there holding the stick so that the belt would stay on so she could finish her job. I guess that was quite a job to do the washing. They had to heat the water on the stove – maybe start a day or two ahead and fire up the wood stove. The big boiler container held over 15 gallons of water. I think that we still have one of those boilers back home that came from Grandma Gelking’s collection of stuff from the farm. So if anybody wants the boiler, I think it’s here in Crystal.
Bad Things Happen
I remember one disaster when I was young: there was a “general alarm” on the telephone, which was a party-line. A neighbor’s house down the road caught fire. I remember when we drove over there. We were sitting in the car watching and listening as this house was burning. There was no fire department. There was no way to stop it — just big flames and all kinds of stuff exploding, blowing up, popping, and banging. It was quite a frightening thing to see for a young guy like me.
During the Depression in the drought years, everything was so dry. One guy lit his swamp where there used to be a pond. This guy lit the grass in his swamp land, but it also set fire to the dirt that was peat. The peat layer was many, many feet deep and peat is like the first beginnings of the stuff that makes coal. This stuff burned for years before it finally burnt itself out. All of the neighbors were there trying to dig a trench so it wouldn’t go across into their property. It just kept on burning and all of this dust would come up from this burnt stuff. There would be big, strong winds and it used to blow from the prevailing winds, which was always from the west direction from southwest toward our place. All of this dust would get into the old house and it would blow right through the poorly-fitted windows. We’d have layers of dust on all of the tables and all of the furniture in the house. My mother was so disgusted and everybody was so mad at this guy.
The DeZurik Girls Entertained Us
My parents used to have parties. People came over every so often and we would have get-togethers, big dinners, celebrations, and drink beer. When I was pretty small, the DeZurik sisters entertained us singing and yodeling. The yard was just full of cars and everybody from around the neighborhood was there sitting around listening to these girls singing and yodeling. They used to sing and play on the local radio stations (St. Cloud and Little Falls). We heard them once in a while on the radio and they were well-known and went to the WLS Barn Dance program in Chicago. We would always hear them on Saturday nights on the Barn Dance Jubilee radio show.
The DeZurik sisters were two of the first women to become stars on both the National Barn Dance and the Grand Ole Opry, largely a result of their original yodeling style. Wikipedia: Carolyn and Mary Jane DeZurik