The Happy Farmer
On the farm we had horses to do all of the field work. I used to have to cultivate and plow everything with the horses. I think I was about ten-or-eleven years old when Dad found this used tractor. It was a big steel-wheeled thing. It was bought somewhere past the town of Royalton, which is like some twenty miles away from the farm. I don’t know what he paid for it; I don’t remember the details, but it was called a Happy Farmer. It was a two-cylinder putt-putt – something like the John Deeres that go “putt putt putt” with their two cylinders. It needed some work, so Dad brought the thing home to work on it. I would be helping him there and watching him. That was a big deal because then we could plow and we could do a lot of work with that old tractor. In order to bring the old tractor home, he had to take off the lugs. It had steel wheels that were about six feet high. And it had these lugs that were bolted on. Some of the roads around Bowlus and Royalton were better roads —even had tar on them. They didn’t dare run the lugs. It would ruin the road surface. So we had to take off all of these lugs from both of the rear wheels. When we got home, we had to bolt all of the lugs back on and put the thing together. It was quite an interesting experience.
Who Needs a Driver’s License?
When I was twelve years old, I was already driving the tractor, plowing, and doing different chores with the tractor. Dad said, “If you can drive the tractor, you ought to be able to drive the car.” So I tried it and yeah I could drive the car and shift it with a stick shift. I would drive and do errands. I didn’t have a driver’s license.
As time went on I would drive and deliver some of the milk cans to the creamery. I would drive to school every once in a while when Dad would have some important chores that he wanted me to get home from school sooner than usual, or if there were some extra activities at school that I would stay after then he wouldn’t have to drive to Upsala to pick me up at the high school. I would drive the family car to Upsala and park it there all day, and then drive home –again, no driver’s license.
I didn’t have a driver’s license until I left home after I graduated from high school and had my own car. We didn’t have no license and no insurance or anything like that. My first driver’s license was when I was working by Dassel after I left home. I got the driver’s license by going to the post office and you filled out a little card. I think it was 50¢. You paid for it and you sent it in and they sent you a driver’s license. There never was a written test or driving test. We just drove … no insurance — never ever had any insurance.
Bert’s First Car
I remember when I got my first car in South St. Paul. Dad used to drive the truck to haul the livestock to the South St. Paul slaughterhouse. I went with him this one time and we went to a place in South St. Paul and found this car that we liked. It was a 1933 Chevrolet. That was about the time that I graduated from high school, I guess. I was like 18 years old. Then I drove it home and after a short time I left home and went to work by Dassel and drove the car over there. That was where I got my first driver’s license.
I just happened to think of something about the 1933 Chevrolet that I had when I left home and was working in Hutchinson. I had picked up some old Model T lamps – some old antique car lamps from the old days when they had kerosene lamps for side lights on the vehicle. Somehow I got a hold of some of them and mounted them on my Chevrolet. They were in good working order. They had a little glass in there and a little burner. It was like a regular kerosene lamp. We used to light them and that was a big deal. We’d go cruising up and down the streets on Friday or Saturday nights in Hutchinson, which was called “cruising the streets.” Big deal, huh? When we were working in Hutchinson, I only got a dollar a day. That was all I made working on the farm, and then of course I got room & board. So that was a big deal. That’s what it amounted to in those days. I remember that in order to buy gas for the car (we didn’t have that much money to allot for this or that or other things). There was this one place in Hutchinson where this guy had this real cheap gas for 10¢ per gallon. We would buy a dollar’s worth of gas which would last for a long time. We could even make a trip back all the way to Upsala and back and still have some gas left. Cars in those days used to get like 20-miles per gallon like with the old Chevrolet or the Model A. They make such a big deal about getting 20-miles per gallon in this day and age. Why they haven’t advanced anything in a lifetime you might say!