Town 2

When Pa was in the livery business, he had a special wagon box called the "band wagon" that could be put on a bob-sleigh in the winter for transporting large groups. It was an extra-long box with a flare on each side, which made a seat the full length for the passengers. I guess it was called the band wagon because the local band would travel in it to other towns and to picnics by various lakes, like on the Fourth of July.

Pa had some interesting trips with the band wagon. The stories he told were mostly about hauling various groups of women to things, out in the country. He was equipped with various fur robes and blankets, etc. so they could go even in cold weather. [9.55-5]

The horses were kept sharp shod so they could stand up on ice and packed snow. Good sleighing was much looked forward to, because rubber tired wagons hadn't been really invented yet, and the steel-wheeled ones really rode rough on the frozen ground. [9.91-3]

Sometimes some of the country ladies would entertain the "ladies' aid" and Pa would take the town members out several miles in the band wagon. The old minister, Dr. Norman, would go along and sit up front with Pa. He always wore a fur cap but never put his ear laps down, even if it was 20 or 30 degrees below zero. His ears would be snow white and he would say, "If they want to freeze, let them freeze." It didn't seem to hurt his ears any. Everybody marveled that they didn't fall off. [9.56-1]

Another group was a bunch of giddy older women who had a birthday club. Some were from town and some lived up around Lake Sewell. He took the town ones out one winter day after the wind had piled all the snow into hard drifts like the waves on a lake and that long sleigh and box rode over the drifts like a roller coaster. He got such a kick out of one of those older ladies. Every time they came down off one of those hard drifts and almost all piled up in the front end of the band wagon, she would scream, "Oh, say, girls!" [9.56-2]

Pa got invited in to have lunch at all such doings while he was waiting to take them back, and he never complained at all about such jobs. Of course, this was all before I can remember -- I only heard tell about it -- but I remember seeing the band wagon. I do know that lunch was a major thing in those days, with sandwiches and several kinds of pickles and cake and cookies and doughnuts and coffee and sugar lumps and probably much more. [9.56-3]

Roy Boe (Odin's son) attached himself to Pa and tagged him around constantly for a few years before Pa was married and for a while afterward, too, I guess. He was only a little kid then. [9.56-4]

One day Roy was wading in a water puddle in front of the barn, getting his feet wet. Pa told him to quit and he said, "My Ma says I can wade in here all I damn' please." He got a switching from Pa. Roy's ma never worried about him as long as he was tagging Pa! [9.56-5]

Carter Randall came up to our house one day to get cream for his mother. He tried to haul the glass jug in his coaster wagon, and of course it got broken. Carter told Ma he could have saved most of it if the wagon hadn't leaked.

One day Carter was playing along the sidewalk, doing something he shouldn't have, and Mrs. Marden came along and scolded him a little. He looked at her, real surprised-like, and said, "Don't you know I'm the doctor's son?" [9.56-6]

Another time, when Carter Randall was older, he came to the door for cream for his mother again and I remember he was bragging, "I shot a black squirrel up by Frog Lake this morning." It seems that a pair of black squirrels (really rare color phases of gray squirrels) had gotten together and had a nest full of little black squirrels in a tree. Carter and Robert Lee shot the parents. They thought they could raise the little ones, but it didn't work and that was the end of that rare squirrel family. [9.57-1]

Pa told about a pair of albino squirrels that got together in Wisconsin where he lived and they increased into quite a large family of white squirrels for a while. [9.57-2]

I remember getting to go up to play with George Jorgenson a couple of times when I was 6 or 7 years old. We were the same age and started school and went through the eight grades together. His mother and father had originally come from Norway and his mother always called him "Broder."

We decided to build a boat and found an oak timber about 6"x6"x6' in his dad's shed. We sawed off about 14 inches of it and drew the shape on it with a pencil. But then we were stuck and didn't know how to hollow it out. I often wondered what his dad said when he found that good timber sawed off. [9.57-3]

George said, "I'm going in and get a "bread slice" and left me outside to entertain myself. In a little while he came out with a big slice of bread and jelly, so big he had to hold it with both hands. I was hungry, too, but again I was too shy (Ma's training) to say so, and I guess George and his Ma couldn't read my mind. They didn't ask, so I just watched him eat it. [9.57-4]

Another time I was allowed to go down and play with Norman Peterson (about the fourth house south of the nursing home) and we spent the whole afternoon hunting rabbits around Little Lake with sticks. We took his dad's bird dog (a setter by the name of Ponto) along and tried to track them, thinking we could sneak up and club them when they were asleep.

We stopped and squeezed every bunch of rabbit "beans" to see if they were hard or soft, so we would know if we were on a fresh trail. We didn't get any rabbits, although there were a lot of rabbits around the lake then. [9.57-5]

When I was a real little kid, Christ Skaar had the hardware store (where Gambles is now). The hardware store was the stopping in and visiting place for everyone with a little spare time. I don't think Pa ever went downtown without stopping in there. There was a big heating stove to sit around and Christ was a real visiting type. Ma bought all her furniture from Christ Skaar when she got married.

Ole Johnson sold machinery across the street. (His building is the upper back end of the present Equity building.) [9.58-1]

I heard tell in later years how one day Pa walked across the street to Ole Johnson's with me sitting balanced on the flat of his hand above his head. [9.58-2]

Betsy and Ole Johnson moved to Fergus about the time I started school, and the Bowman family moved into their house on the corner next door to us. [9.59-3]

Charlie Bowman was the first bulk gas delivery man in Ashby (for Standard Oil) and hauled the gasoline to the farmers in a tank on a wagon with horses. It wasn't too long before they got a Model T truck and tank and Ernie Bowman got to be 16 and could drive the truck. Also, he was old enough to quit school, and did. [9.59-4]

I was big and rugged for my age and Ernie Bowman and Thomas Clark would let me go along on skiing trips up to Frog Lake along the railroad right of way because I had an old pair of skis that were much too long for me, though I could ski with them. [9.60-4]

There was a big, hard snowdrift up by the railroad fence up at the end of our street. All the kids played up on that drift. One day I went up there and Thomas and Ernie were there. There was a patch of loose snow in the middle of the drift and they told me to go and stomp that loose snow down.

I was gullible enough to do anything they told me to, and when I walked onto the loose snow I fell into a hole about six feet deep. They really laughed, and then fished me out. All that was over the hole was some small box-elder branches and some loose snow.

They set some traps in the small brush along the track and caught a rabbit now and then. One day Ernie made a big slingshot out of a forked tree about two feet long and long, inner tube rubbers. They took that along to Frog Lake and wired it to a fence post. Ernie put a rock in it almost as big as a baseball and shot it almost all the way across Frog Lake. [9.60-5]

I did my first trapping when we still lived in town. Pa had a pile of ear corn out in the lot behind the garden to feed a couple of butchering hogs he had back there. The rabbits were thick around the corn pile and I wanted to trap them. There were three or four old gopher traps in the garage, and Ma gave me some cabbage leaves for bait, as if the corn wasn't enough. I set the traps by the corn pile among the cabbage leaves and stapled them to a big post. One or two mornings later, Pa brought a rabbit that got caught in my trap to the house and we had fried rabbit for dinner. [9.60-7]

I grew up during the era of telephone operators and plug and cord switchboards. People would give a good crank on the telephone and start hollering, "Hello, hello, Central -- will you see if you can find Ole and tell him to call home." Then "Central" would ring every store and restaurant in town until they found Ole. His wife probably only wanted to tell him to bring some yeast cakes along home. [9.42-3]

Annie Madland was one of the first "telephone girls" I remember and Martha (Simonson) Johnson was the chief operator when dials came in. (Martha said, "Just wait until you get dials, and then you'll miss us!" [9.42-4]

We were among the first few to have a telephone in town, because of Pa's livery business, and it was a common thing to have someone call our place and have us relay a message to one of the neighbors or call them to the telephone. The operator could, and did, listen in on everything that was said. Party lines had several subscribers and everyone on that line could "rubber" on the others' conversations. Some of the operators told their friends any choice news they heard, and the telephone office had lots of company hanging around for news, depending on who the operator was. [9.42-5]

In the old days they heated the office with wood and coal and the last years with oil. Sometimes the operator had to go to the bathroom and it took quite a bit of cranking before they answered. The caller usually asked what was wrong and the answer during the last years was always the same: "I was out getting oil for the oil burner." [9.42-6]

It was quite a common thing for the old wooden instruments to get out of order. Some farmer would be the lineman out in the country. They fixed the ailing instruments and lines that were down. They only worked at it on a hit and miss, part-time, basis. The village flunky that took care of the village water pump and other things usually fixed the ones in town. [9.43-2]

When we walked to school in the spring, the meadowlarks would be sitting on the farm line poles singing, especially along by Teisbergs, and I've wondered what they sit on now that the poles are gone. [9.43-1]

My mother wouldn't have a telephone on the farm for 15 or 20 years, or until we lived on the other place and had one. Then it was practically a necessity. [9.43-3]

We had a box in the Post Office as long as I can remember. The first ones had a round key hole in the front and you had to bring your key. Pa and a lot of other people never locked their boxes. They just stuck their little fingers in the holes and opened them. I could open the box when I was just a little kid. [9.90-6]

We could have had a mailbox and free delivery when we moved to the farm, but never did. We got our mail quicker most days by us bringing it after school, or Pa would pick it up when he was in town or when he went through to work in the fields he still rented around town. [9.91-1]

The mail came in on the train several times during the day and night and the village copy and flunky met each train with a pushcart or hand sled to load mail out and get what came in. He had to meet one train in the middle of the night. Some trains didn't even stop. The mail hauler hung the outgoing sack on a post and the train had an arm that hooked it off the post. They threw the incoming sack on the platform. Once in a while something went wrong and the mail sack would land under the wheels, with mail scattered down the track. [9.91-2]

I don't remember the day the Armistice was signed, but Pa told about Roy Boe (not Capper, the other one) going up on the bridge and firing round after round with his 22 special Winchester Rife. Later when we were moving to the farm and Roy wanted the money for something else, Pa bought that rife for $20 and I still have it. It was just like new and Pa could hit a striped gopher in the head with it almost every time. [9.43-4]

Pa wasn't a hunter but thought we should have some guns to shoot crows and woodchucks and other "vermin" with on the farm. So he bought Roy's rifle and a second-hand single barrel shotgun in the hardware store for $5. (I've still got that one, too.)

I could well have blown my head off with it, because when I got old enough to use it I bought the most powerful 12-gauge shells I could get for it. Nobody ever taught me anything about guns, but I'm sure it's the kind I've read about many times since. They have twist barrels and come with warnings to use light loads in them because they aren't safe for heavy loads. It used to kick something awful. I had a sore arm muscle for days after shooting crows with it. [9.43-5]

There were quite a few "family cows" around town and those with cows would supply some of the neighbors, but Pa had a milk route around town, too. He walked and carried a three- or five-gallon can and and a one-quart measure and filled pails that were on the front porches.

Some would leave the money in the pails, even though they weren't supposed to. I guess it happened that he would pour in the milk before he noticed the money, but such little things weren't problems. He'd just pour the milk back in the can and take out the money and then refill the pail. [9.43-6]

He told about one time when Hilma Kheen went away for a week or more without saying anything. Each morning he just dumped the milk he'd left the day before into the flower bed and refilled the pail with fresh milk so when Hilma came home her milk was waiting. [9.44-1]

Pa used to say he didn't think Hilma could raise a bulldog pup. She was quite a scatterbrain, but Mary survived. One day Pa met Hilma running down the street with Mary under her arm heading for Doc Randall's office. She said, as she ran, "Darn kid swallowed a safety pin." Mary survived that okay, too. [9.45-1]

One day Hilma's husband, Jack, rented a team and buggy from Pa and told Hilma she could ride along on some business trip if she would be ready when he drove up with the buggy. He waited and waited, but she didn't come out, so he drove off and left her. He told Pa she was an awfully mad woman. [9.45-2]

A common practice in those days, before freezers, was for the hunters to hang the birds they shot (mostly ducks) by the necks on the wall on the shady side of the house, usually under an open porch roof. They sort of cured that way, with the guts in and the feathers on. Some said when the neck let go they were the best to eat. [9.45-3]

Pa told about Carsten Running (Hilma's uncle). He lived alone and one fall he hung several ducks and a big jack rabbit on his porch wall next to the street. The grease from the rabbit ran down the siding clear to the porch floor. Eventually they all disappeared and it was assumed he had cleaned and eaten them. [9.44-4]

All the stray dogs that landed in town usually hung around the livery barn and I guess it was a common sight to see Pa walking his milk route with several dogs trailing along behind. He also had some customers who carried their own milk, mostly in syrup pails. There were some open shelves on the outside of the barn where they left the empty pails and picked up the full ones. (Each one had his pail marked some way.) They didn't have dairy inspectors then, and the empty pails had quite a smell when you took the covers off, but you didn't notice it when they had milk in them. [9.44-5]

Pa always got along good with kids, the same as with dogs, but sometimes some kids would be in a squirrely age and give him a bad time. He always got them set straight in a hurry and never had trouble with the same ones more than once. They never seemed to hold his training against him.

One summer four or five kids got to hanging around the barn when he wasn't around. They were from right around the neighborhood, all probably about 6-year-olds or so, a year younger than I was. They sort of stirred things up around the barn, even put dirt or leaves in the empty milk pails. He knew who they were, but they were always gone when they heard him coming with the horses. [9..44-6]

One day he was working on something up at the house and I got sent downtown for something. About five of them were lying in the long grass behind the buggy shed on the town side of the barn. I told Pa they were there. He sneaked around the corner of the shed and then made a run for them. He hadn't thought to tell me to stay home, so I was right behind him, to see the fun. [9.45-2]

He grabbed one of them by the seat of the pants. (I think he got a little skin along with the pants, too.) Another one came dashing back and ran right into me. It knocked us both down and that delayed him enough so Pa got him, too. He had two out of five (the ones he wanted). [9.45-3]

Harry Johnson jumped on his tricycle and tore for home and one of the mothers hollered and asked him what was going on. He said, "Bennie is after us," and she said, "I hope he catches you." She didn't know Pa already had one of her kids! [9.45-4]

He took them into the livery barn office and shut the door. (I managed to get in there, too.) Then he started in on them for putting dirt in the milk pails and they were both crying and hollering at the same time, that this one did it, and not them, and that one did it, etc. I think they thought they were going to jail, and one of them filled his pants. [9.45-5]

Pa let them go without doing anything to them, and they never did anything bad around there again. I think at least one mother thanked him for putting the scare into her kid. [9.45-6]

When Pa first bought the livery barn, he was tall (about 6'2") and slim and strong and some of the younger teenage boys started to call him "Spike." He didn't plan to be called Spike all his life, so when he could catch them he would grab them and pinch a little of the skin on their butts until they begged for mercy. He soon got famous around town for how hard he could pinch. One storekeeper warned him that if he started fighting the kids he would soon have more trouble than he could handle, but that didn't turn out to be the case with him. One pinch was enough, but the daring ones would try to get him at a disadvantage and then holler, "Spike!" [9.45-7]

One day, just as he left the barn with the team and dray wagon, Olaf Norman, the preacher's son, was on the sidewalk and hollered, "Spike!" Then he ran south as fast as he could, and Pa after him with the team at a dead gallop -- the kid on the sidewalk and Pa in the street. [9.46-1]

The kid cut across country where the Pelican Lake Church is now and thought he was safe, but Pa drove his horses up to a big tree and took off on foot. He soon caught up with the kid but didn't grab him -- just grazed his back a few times with his fingers and let him keep on running, clear home (where Alice Dobbs lives now.) [9.46-2]

Pa still had his hand touching his back when the kid went in through the kitchen door without stopping to turn the door knob. Pa went back to his horses. He always wondered what Mrs. Norman thought when Olaf crashed through the door. [9.46-3]

Anyway, the "Spike" business was short lived and never was revived. At least 25 or more years later, though, we were were helping fill silo over at Leonard Ellingson's and Louise's uncle Harold ("Choc'lit") Himli was there. That day at dinnertime, Choc'lit said to Pa, "You know, Bennie, when you came in the house at noon I had the strongest impulse to jump up and run out the other door. I can still remember how hard you could pinch!"

Pa must have been famous for it. Alfred Peterson was demonstrating not long ago how Pa did it, 65 or 70 years later. [9.46-4]

Ashby always was a great place for nicknames. It was almost a rare person that didn't get one. Many people lived practically their whole lives without most people even knowing their right names. [9.114-4]

When Pa had the livery barn, he gave his ponies a lot of the same names as local people's nicknames. For instance, he had a livery team he named Gitter and Kaiser. Walter Dahl was known as "Kaiser," and "Gitter" (later, "Swede") referred to Victor Hoff. [9.114-5]

When I was little, he always called me "Donald Addison" after a cartoon character in the newspaper.

When Marj was born, Dr. Randall's wife, a real proper lady, met him on the street one day and asked him what the baby's name was. He said, "Esmerelda." That was another cartoon character, and Mrs. Randall repeated it all over town. Pa called her that for quite a while and then he shortened it to Meldy and we all called her that for some time -- probably until she started school. [9.114-6]

Pa managed to retain his own name, after he nipped the "Spike" handle in the bud by pinching the butts of the smart alec boys that tried to start it. [9.115-1]

Nobody knew the first names of most of the women in our town neighborhood. They went by Mrs. Bennie (Ma), Mrs. Ole, Mrs. Sig, etc. I don't think they even cared. I'm sure they all would have voted against women's lib. [9.115-2]

Hallowe'en used to be quite a night in Ashby, before I was born. One Hallowe'en about dusk, Pa stopped in at the drug store and the druggist was carrying on about his toilet out back being tipped over every year. He said this year was going to be different. He had a shotgun ready and he was going to watch it. While he was raving about it to the next customer, Pa went out and slipped around back, tipped over the druggist's toilet, and walked up the alley to the livery barn. [9.46-5]

Pa had bought the triangle between our house and the track (the Legion Hall is on part of it, now), so he could turn the horses in there to exercise and roll, etc. That was always the shortcut to the barn or downtown. One day an orange cook car and some other stuff was pulled into the space between the Legion Hall lot and the Ashby Elevator. (There wasn't any Legion Hall then, just an old vacant building that had been a flour mill and later a granary. [9.47-2]

We kids stood around watching and one of the men said, "We are going to put electric lights in Ashby. That was 1918 or 1919. From then on, for a while, the main topic of conversation when women got together was what kind of fixtures they were going to have. Some of them got quite ornate ones (some of which we later bought as antiques and sold in the Treasure Cove.) Some people only put in "drop cords" with a bulb hanging on the end. In our house, we had really conservative ones, like a single glass globe on the ceiling in the downstairs, and drop cords in the bedrooms upstairs. [9.47-3]

Everybody (almost) put in one outlet in the kitchen to plug in an electric iron, when and if they could afford one. Some got the irons later; usually, they took out the kitchen light bulb, screwed in a plug, and ironed from that -- but only in the daytime, of course. Those first outlets for irons in the kitchen were just a hole the size of a light bulb base; you would screw in a plug and plug the iron into that.

There were some hair-raising stories of kids sticking things into them and getting shocks. One kid in our neighborhood (Woodard Thorstenson) stuck part of a tobacco can into one of them. They said it knocked him clear across the kitchen. [9.47-4]

Some of the affluent people soon bought electric trains for their kids, but we were never that affluent. [9.48-1]

That was the end of the gaslights and there was much talk about the "white way" that would go down the middle of Main Street -- a row of cast iron posts with white globes on top. There also was "center street parking" between the white way posts and as cars became more numerous, the casualties among the white way posts increased. They were made of such poor stuff that they snapped right off.

I saw one old drunk (John Moseng) in a Model T try to straddle one of them. It broke off and impaled the front end of the Model T up on the stump, about three feet off the ground. [9.48-2]

These things usually happened on Saturday nights when Ashby was teeming with people. It seemed like everybody came to town on Saturday night to get groceries, or go to the movies, or just to visit. [9.48-3]

Before the Farmers' Equity was going, the evening traffic was to Lynne's store (where the Ashby Lumber Yard is) and to Sunju's store across the street, and to the City Restaurant. A lot of people stood around on the sidewalk and visited. Andrew Runningen rolled a popcorn machine out on the sidewalk and you could smell fresh popcorn a block away. Capper Boe got his start there, popping and selling popcorn for the City Restaurant. [9.48-4]