Ashby In The 1920s

There were two milk routes in Ashby during the twenties. The competitors were old man Hoff with his mule route from the east and Neely Gray with a two-horse buggy from the west. Some of the customers switched back and forth, and some compared milk. Hoffs had red scrub cows and Neely had blooded Holstein cows. [18.112-2]

When Holstein cows first came into the country, a lot of the old diehards wouldn't have anything to do with them. They maintained that the old red scrub cows were better in every way. Neely's barn was modern and probably quite a bit more antiseptic than Hoff's steamy shed, but they said his Holstein milk was so thin it was blue. They even accused him of watering it. The scrub cows had richer milk, and it was hard to choose the lesser of the two evils.

If I remember right, the price was 7 cents or 8 cents a quart, delivered, and later went up to 10 cents. There weren't any laws or restrictions or inspections concerning bottled milk in those days. If they strained the straw and cow hair out, that was good enough. [18.112-3]

Hanna Ellingson lived in half of the brick house that became the nursing home and she had three or four cows. An old relative, "Ole Ask," made his home there and did all her chores. She had a few milk customers, too. One day Ole said, "The cow stuck her foot in the pail last night."

"Did you pour it out?" somebody asked.

"No," Ole said, "the cow's foot was clean." [18.112-4]

A lot of people just let the cream can sit under the separator in the pump house or kitchen, often times with the cover off, until the can got full. Then they would take it to town. [18.149-4]

There wasn't much cream inspection then, but sometimes the cream got so bad the creamery would have to reject it. Then the farmer would take the polluted cream over to the cream buying station in the old Pool Hall building. The cream they bought was shipped by rail to Sauk Centre or St. Cloud and was really ripe by the time it got there. [18.149-2]

There was a story that Oscar Nelson got a can of cream rejected because there was a mouse in it. He just tossed the mouse out into the street and sold the cream at the cream station.

Dick Huggett worked in the creamery and could tell some stories about what they found in the cans of cream (shoes, etc.). He said he even found a horseshoe in one. [18.149-3]

Gilford Slotsve was a brother-in-law of a fellow who worked in one of those places the cream was shipped to. He saw them dump the cans that came in by rail. They had a small, cement room like a shower stall with a drain in the floor. They would put on a slicker coat and hat and rubber boots and when they knocked the cover off the can the cream would shoot clear to the ceiling and run down the wall.

Sour cream made the best butter and even the home churners like Ma soured the cream before they churned it. Sweet cream butter has come into being since I can remember. [18.149-5]

Ole Buskerud was one of the real village characters. He was retired from farming and he and his wife lived alone. They were famous for big appetites and for serving big meals when they had company. He was big and gruff, but really good hearted. Quite often when we were walking home from school he would be walking home over the bridge carrying a big bundle of dry lutefisk under his arm. [18.113-3]

They said when Buskeruds lived on the farm they butchered four big hogs and a horse every fall. I suppose the horsemeat and pork, mixed, made good sausage.

After his wife died, Ole stopped in to see old Mrs. Boe, who lived in the first house above the bridge, and brought her a bag of candy. She didn't take the bait, though.

Ferdinand Koefod used to say that if eating too much and drinking too much and smoking too much was going to kill you, it wasn't true about Ole. He might have added swearing too much, too, but Ole lived to be past 80. [18.113-4]

In those days it was always real interesting to come to town the morning after Hallowe'en. There would be machinery and wagons etc. on top of he flat-roofed building on Main Street, and some on the school roof. There was some big, outlandish thing at the top of the flagpole at school and everybody had a toilet to tip. I think the stories were exaggerated, but there was a least one instance told of a kid that fell in the hole when they tipped one. [18.113-5]

There was a lot of "cain raising" on Hallowe'en nights, but I never got in on any of it (I was locked up nights) though I heard the boys tell about it at school. I missed a lot of the more interesting things in life by being locked in at night while the town kids were raising cain. Enoch Evavold told this one: [18.113-2]

Ole Buskerud, who lived in the next-to-last brick house on the east side of Ashby, and William Pearson, who lived down on the corner west of him, each had a family cow. On Hallowe'en night, Enoch and the Runningen boys (and maybe some others) exchanged the cows, so the old guys found the wrong cows in the barns when they went to milk in the morning. [18.113-2]

Hallowe'en pranksters didn't have much danger of cops catching them then. I don't think they were very scared of Herman. He probably spent the night down in the pump house. [18.114-1]

The Fourth of July was more of a day back then, too, though I spent most Independence Days raking hay.

"Big Slide" and "Jumbo" and "Big Bunny" went to Fargo to spend the Fourth on Front Street and, of course, got drunk. Jumbo messed his pants and Big Bunny had a bright idea. He bought a bottle of dime store perfume and poured it down Jumbo's pants to counteract the smell. Then a cop came along and started to walk them to jail or the patrol wagon. He looked up at Jumbo and said, "How tall are you, anyway?"

Jumbo said, "I'm s-s-six foot-two on one foot, and s-s-s-six foot-three on the other." (He always did limp.) [18.114-2]

Arthur Balgaard was sort of a retarded kid. His dad was a cousin or something of Jumbo's. Arthur had a withered hand and limped, too, and he heard about these celebrities that had been to Fargo. When he met Jumbo on the street, in front of a whole bunch of people in front of the City Restaurant, he walked up to him and in a loud voice said, "Is that so, you been to jail?" [18.114-3]

Dr. Thorson had a dentist office where the telephone building is now, next to the drug store, and he was a rough one. He always said, "It won't hurt," and insisted the pain was all in your head. But regardless of where the pain was, you really suffered when he got hold of you. Kids never admitted there was anything wrong with their teeth unless they had such a toothache they couldn't hide it, and then their mothers would have to drag them in to Doc Thorson. [18.115-3]

When Ma had one of her own teeth pulled by him, she always had it without Novocaine. I don't blame her. When he put it in, it felt like his needle had a point the size of a pencil lead and your whole head was completely dead for half a day afterward. [18.115-4]

Doc Thorson liked to monkey with old cars and always had one out back that he would be fixing between patients when he wasn't busy. His hands sometimes looked more like a mechanic's than a dentist's when he worked on your teeth. [18.115-5]

Ma dragged me in there once or twice to get cavities filled, so I knew what it was all about when I heard other people's stories I was lucky in that my teeth seldom ached even when I had cavities, so I discreetly kept quiet when I knew I had them. Ma was so occupied with building and moving, etc. for a few years that my teeth got neglected, but the summer I was 14 she finally made a check of them and in I went to Doc Thorson.

I had to walk back and forth to town and he drilled and filled most of my double teeth. I was there most of the day for three days. I didn't get any "deadener" in them -- that was only for pulling teeth in those days. His foot-pedal-powered drills were dull and coarse and got hot. He enjoyed his work very much and would usually hum a tune while he drilled. Once, when the drill broke through, it felt like it went clear into my jawbone and hurt something awful. [18.115-6]

"You must have hit the nerve," I said.

"No," he said, "If I had hit the nerve you would be over on that roof across the alley by now." [18.116-1]

By the end of the third day, I had four rows of almost solid silver and I was so sick I could hardly make it home. I went right to bed and stayed until the next day. [18.116-2]

A couple of years later, I got a big gum boil beside one of my back teeth and it was back to the dentist again. He said he would have to pull the tooth. He had a brand new X-ray machine, which I think he wanted a chance to try, as they had just been invented for common use. He said he would have to X-ray to find out which tooth it was.

"How much will that cost?" I asked.

"Ten dollars."

I figured it was obvious which tooth it was, by the gum boil, so I said, "For $10 apiece you can pull them all." [18.116-3]

I guess I had had all the suffering I wanted with them, even if Ma had drilled it into me when I was a kid that I had such good teeth and should take good care of them. I never took that seriously, I guess. I didn't use or own a toothbrush until I started to chase girls. [18.116-4]

So Doc pulled the obvious tooth and the gum boil disappeared. When the tooth came out, I almost felt like maybe my brains would come draining down through the hole. After it was over, my whole face went dead and stayed dead for the rest of the day. [18.116-5]

I wasn't the only kid he tortured. Ma told about being to the dentist when he had Ernest Olson in the chair. He kicked and screamed something awful, so she had to hold him down while he got his tooth fixed. [18.116-6]

Next to the dentist, I guess taking pills was one of the worst scourges of my earlier years. It seemed like a lot of people, my folks included, thought that if you got anything wrong with you, or if you ran a temperature or anything, that the first thing you should do was get cleaned out with a laxative.

The good, chocolate kind, like Ex-Lax, hadn't been invented yet, but there were a couple of others that we had to take. One was a big, flat, oval pill that tasted awful. It was so big that you got only half of one if you were little, but you got both halves if you were bigger. It looked like melted licorice if you spit it out. [18.116-7]

Ma or Pa practically held a club over you and hollered, "Swallow!" when they finally got it between your clenched teeth. I can remember some real messes when Marj sat on the edge of the bed in her nightie and spit it all out, in spite of all the threats and hollering. [18.116-8]

That pill was almost like candy, though, compared to some others they called "Aloes" and kept in a tin box. That we had to take when we got bigger. I know we wished we could die suddenly when we saw them coming. They started to dissolve as soon as they got near the slightest bit of moisture, and the unearthly taste stayed in your mouth for hours, even if you had the rare good luck to swallow one with the first threat and drink of water. [18.117-1]

I went through that torture many times. Sometimes both Ma and Pa would get up close, one with the pill and the other with the water, and they both looked like they would kill you if you didn't swallow. It was sure a relief when that theory of first aid to the sick became obsolete and when Ex-Lax was invented. [18.117-2]

I still had to take the brown pills (Aloes) a couple of times when I was a teenager and had a bad case of summer flu. They were 99 times worse tasting than anything I've ever tasted since. [18.117-3]

About the time when Ex-Lax came out, another kind came out that was chewy and fruit flavored. Chester Western treated his dad to two or three of them and told him they were fruit candy. It was a dirty trick, but he said it was great sport to watch old Johnny run back and forth from the lumberyard office to the outhouse in the back lot. [18.117-4]

One day some kids got hold of some Ex-Lax and were looking for an innocent kid at school to play a trick on. They pretended they were eating them and gave Irving Woldvedt three or four. The next day they were discreetly questioning him to find out if he'd ever had diarrhea (though they didn't use such nice words). When he said, "No," they asked him what he did with the candy they had given him the day before. He said, "I threw it." [18.117-5]

One time when Pa was bringing old Dr. Norman home from a house call out in the country with the team and buggy, he showed Pa two bottles of white pills that were his main standby. He would prescribe one pill from the first bottle to be taken in the morning and one pill from the other bottle to be taken in the evening. He said they were only sugar pills, but most people got over most things when they took them (or something to that effect). [18.117-6]

Doc Randall could tell some good stories about the home remedies he found some people using. One place he was called to, someone had hurt his leg real bad and they had plastered fresh cow manure over it and wrapped it up. He said he really cleaned that one up before he bandaged it. [18.118-1]

We used to read about women having babies at home and always the preparations seemed to include heating a big kettle of water. I always wondered what the hot water was for. One day I read about a new father who had gone through this and he said when it was all over they hadn't found any use for the hot water, so they made coffee with it. [18.118-2]

One time when we were probably 7 and 10 years old, an infection went through the country that kept any break in the skin from healing for months. It must have been some kind of a staph infection. The doctors didn't have anything that worked on it. Marj and I both had some of those sores, as people called them. I had skinned both knees in the fall somehow and also had ridden Bird with a decrepit old saddle we got with her. The strap buckles had worn a hole through the skin on both of my ankles. They stayed open sores for many months, all winter or longer. They had to be freshly bandaged with white cloth every day to protect them from the long, black wool stockings we had to wear, even under overalls. [18.118-3]

That fall, my grandmother was there and she picked red clover blossoms in quantity and dried them. We had to drink clover tea every night because it was thought to be good for the blood and might help heal our sores. Ish! I can taste it yet. I remember us sitting many cold nights with our feet on the oven door drinking that awful tea and having poultices put on our sores.

Other people had other cures, but nothing helped. The doctors couldn't help them either. Lots of kids had those sores and I guess they eventually ran their course after several months and healed up, but the scars looked like a thin onion skin and stayed for years. [18.118-4]

Howard Moseng was 15 years old and about six feet tall that fall, though he was still in the 5th grade. He fell off a corn bundle pile and broke his leg. He got that infection in his leg and was in the hospital for five and a half months, and that was the end of his schooling. He wound up with a stiff leg. I guess the doctors debated about cutting it off, but probably didn't dare -- that would have given the infection a real place to get a hold. [18.118-5]

One of those years Clarence Haugejordan went skiing one Saturday and one ski went under a frozen-down bush. He did everything right and broke his leg instead of his ski, and his sisters hauled him home on a sled. He went on crutches for quite a while, but he didn't have any complications. No sores that year. [18.119-1]

Everybody drove horses to town after the roads blocked up with snow, usually in December. There were a lot of trees to tie them to behind the Equity, where the shop and that tin house are now. Also, there were quite a few trees where the filling station is now, by the old barber shop, and they would tie the horses to those trees. [18.126-2]

The farmers stood around in the Equity and visited and had coffee in Capper's City Restaurant, just like now, except that coffee and two doughnuts cost 10 cents and coffee and pie was 15 cents. Dinner, including pie, was 25 cents or 35 cents, at the most. [18.126-3]

Beer wasn't legal then, and the main booze was moonshine hauled up from the St. Cloud area in pint Mason jars by bootleggers. I never tasted any, but the road ditches were littered with pint jars. [18.126-4]

Raymond Skaar used to tell a story from before my day, when saloons were still legal. A couple of neighbors from up in St. Olaf township came to town together with a team and buggy one day to booze and took a pint of alcohol along to drink on the way home. Another neighbor came by on his way home and the first two had stopped their team along a creek by the road to have a drink. They didn't have any mix, so one fellow lay down by the creek and drank out of the creek as the other one poured the alcohol into the creek right above him. The guy who was pouring hollered, "Drink, damn you, drink!" [18.126-5]

Another saloon story concerned a farmer who drove into town with four horses on a binder and parked them in front of a saloon while he went in for a drink. [18.126-6]

During Prohibition it was almost illegal to have an alcohol breath and nobody drank where anyone could see. Tollef told about when they built the road past their place, some of the road crew got a jug of moonshine and invited him along that night. They walked clear down to our gravel pit and sat under the old road in the old cattle chute (where the crushed rock pile is now) so nobody would see them drinking. Tollef indicated he had plenty that time, though he never elaborated much. Maybe that was their fun -- get the "hayseed" drunk. [18.127-1]

Possession of alcohol was a major crime, but it didn't make Edward Ellingson nervous. He farmed east of town for a few years but lived with his mother in the brick house that is the nursing home now. He left his horses at the farm nights and walked back and forth. One morning he stopped in at the Equity for something and forgot an oil jug there by the door. It was a glass gallon jug covered with grease and oil. The jug held his daily ration of moonshine and he laughed ever after, because nobody knew it. [18.127-2]

Gust Hoff had a gun shop for a while in an old vacant house where "the produce" is now. There was an old outhouse out back and Gust put a target on the door. Then he could stand in the doorway of the house and sight in the .22 rifles on the outhouse door.

One day Old Man Tobiason tied his team behind the Equity and went in to use the old toilet. (I suppose he wouldn't have been caught dead using the indoor facilities at the filling station.) Gust started to sight in a rifle on the door and hit the old man in the leg. I guess Tobiason came out awfully fast, holding his pants in his hand. Gust got an awful scare. He took somebody's car (without asking) and headed for Fergus to take Tobiason to the hospital. They had some kind of car trouble on the way, too, but the old man wasn't seriously hurt and it didn't turn out too badly. [18.127-3]

Gust Hoff (my second cousin) was the local "Will Rogers." He fought constantly with his wife Lena, but they stuck together for more than 50 years anyway. [18.127-4]

One day Gust came into town with a black eye. He said Lena had thrown the stove wood at him. "I counted the sticks when I carried them in, but I missed one and I didn't duck the last one," he said. [18.127-5]

Pa worked at Hoffs' the first year he was in Minnesota and at that time Gust used to run over to Solems' (about 1/2 mile) to see Lena when he was supposed to be doing chores. One day he told his mother they were going to get married and she said something to the effect that they shouldn't yet, because they were so young. "Unless, of course, you have to," she said. And Gust allowed as how they did have to, though they didn't. They did get married and Gust laughed ever after about how he fooled his mother. [18.128-1]

Gust went to the Lutheran College in Fergus for a year. He drove a bakery delivery buggy part time and was arrested for speeding -- with horses. He came home earlier than expected in the spring and told his mother school was all over, except for the exams, and they were nothing to stay for. [18.128-2]

Pa had a .30-.30 rifle and when he took a trip to North Dakota to see his sister, he left the gun with Gust because Gust was quite a gun man and would take good care of it. While Pa was gone Gust traded the gun for a dog and the dog turned out to be good for nothing, so he shot the dog. [18.128-3]

Gust's mother came from Norway and lived here most of her life. She raised a big family but never learned to talk English because her kids made fun of her when she tried. [18.128-4]

During the Depression era a lot of men had an odd style of dress. In winter they would wear their old "Sunday" pants under their bib overalls, tucked into their four-buckle overshoes with the overall turned up in a neat cuff up near the tops of their overshoes when they did chores or worked in the woods. When they came to town they would only wear low rubbers and a new overall rolled up the same way, so they had about eight inches of the old blue serge pants showing below the overalls. Some of them didn't feel dressed for town any other way. A new bib overall was considered dress clothes for any doings except church. [18.142-2]

One cold night I was in town between 8 and 9 o'clock (probably on the way home from ice fishing) and stopped in at the Equity station. Carl Evavold was working alone there that night, greasing a car in the back room. Raymond Skaar and Bert Evavold were sitting in the office, visiting. The Equity was open and August Lundberg was working there, alone.

Raymond and Bert got to wondering whether washers would work in the peanut machine, so they gave me 50 cents and told me to go over to the Equity and get washers the size of a penny. They sent a penny along, too, for size, and said to tell August we were building a hay rack. (August didn't question me.) [18.155-6]

The washers worked, so one of them found a bag and held it under the machine and slid the lever back and forth while the other one dropped the washers in. We all three ate all the peanuts we could hold, and then they gave me the bag.

When I got home, everyone was upstairs in bed and just as I stepped into the kitchen the peanuts broke through the bag and flew all over the floor. I picked peanuts, quietly, and finally got them all picked up. I don't know where I hid them, but I had a secret supply of salted peanuts for quite a while.

Bert said Carl said the peanut man took over 200 washers out of the machine, but no one knew who put them in. [18.156-1]