During the Depression, ice skating became popular because it didn't cost anything. Most of the single "grown-ups" and quite a few married ones, too, kept a place cleaned off for skating on Little Lake, out from the wooded point on the south side. The town people would walk down there. Some drove cars out on the ice when it got safe and there would be a big gang every night.
We had logs to sit on, a good bonfire, and sometimes we cooked coffee. Some of the older boys like Howard Western, Chester Western, Donovan Grover, etc. even made a deal a couple of times or more and made doughnuts in "Capper's" City Restaurant in the afternoon. And there were marshmallows and even wieners (rarely). [31.183-3]
During those dry years there wasn't much snow, but the village had a small horse blade for the streets and when it did pile up on the lake I would bring in a team and we would blade the snow into big circles out from the fire site. [31.184-1]
Skating was considered honorable entertainment and going skating was the first social night life I was allowed to take the car (the 1927 Chevrolet coupe) for. (Kent Skaar and Thelma would come in his 1930 Essex coupe.) When the ice got safe we drove the cars out on it and that way we could even bring some wood from home and save dragging it from the woods. [31.184-2]
All the teachers came to skate. (There weren't any sports at school then.) I felt awfully green and awkward after being an isolated country kid and thought maybe I could acquire some "polish" if I could be around these more literate intellectuals. [31.184-3]
I was getting old enough then to demand "out" a little and there were a couple of teachers rooming with Thelma Skaar in the big brick house with Hannah Ellingson. Thelma was "going with" Kent and had her transportation with him, and the other two really had "cabin fever." They were always in the big skating gang, but nobody went skating on Saturday nights, so I used to take the "lonesome two" to a show or class play or something now and then. They were older than I was but appreciated a chance to go somewhere, and I could practice up some on how to act when "going out."
Everything was strictly platonic and one of them even had a boy friend in the cities, but they told him what a gentleman I was, apparently, and he didn't raise any Cain about it. He could only afford to drive out this far once in a blue moon himself, but he eventually married her. [31.184-4]
One night, on the way home from Alexandria, we stopped in Brandon for a cup of hot chocolate. The new Highway #52 had just been built by there; the old highway led out of town and merged with it somewhere west of town. Instead of going down to the new road I said, "I guess we'll go out the old road to where it joins the new one."
It was a balmy, moonlight night, no snow yet, and we were visiting and not paying too much attention. We evidently merged with the wrong road. We must have eventually circled east instead of west, but rather than turn back I said, "If we keep making left turns we'll have to come out on the right road eventually."
We drove and drove, making left turns periodically, and the roads got poorer and poorer, almost a single track sometimes. Finally we came out past Ernie Bowman's (on a road long since abandoned now) and came to Highway #78 by the Eagle Lake Town Hall. Then I knew where I was, for the first time. We were almost as far from Ashby as we were in Brandon. [31.184-5]
Once during the trip I got out and looked at the North Star to see what direction we were going, and the teachers really got a kick out of that. Three or four days later I got a compass in the mail, with no return address on the package. [31.185-1]
The second year, I arrived early one night at Little Lake and the ice was plenty thick, but nobody had driven on it yet. I decided to drive out there from the south, off Carl Peterson's driveway. The lake was low, so there was quite a long mud flat between the shore and the ice. About halfway to the ice the back axle dropped into the mud, either into a muskrat run or where the grass had kept the frost out.
Sivert Peterson always kept a team up in Emma Melby's barn. One of his horses had died in the fall, and he had Dexter, one of our big, black horses there to use for the winter, so it looked like I wasn't in much trouble.
Someone went along and we harnessed our horse in the dark (with Sivert's harness, of course) and I had a chain in the car. We led Dexter down there about 10 p.m. I figured he would be able to pull it out "like nothing" and nobody would know the difference.
Sivert's harness wasn't like our harnesses, though, and it flew in every direction when Dexter tightened up. So I had to walk home and "report" -- real meek and humble-like -- and I didn't sleep all night. I was sure the wheels would be frozen in solid and we would have to chisel it out or leave it there.
Pa and Ma didn't say anything. I guess they thought I was suffering enough. The next day we went to town for a load of hay and Pa took another chain along. We hooked that team on the back and the Chevrolet came out of the mud, just like nothing. Then I had to go and explain everything to Sivert and take his harness to August Stucke, the local harness maker, and get it rebuilt. Sivert didn't say anything, either; he just laughed and chuckled in his special way. [31.185-2]
In 1936 Howard Melby and I decided to spend a week at the State Fair and we got to take the Plymouth down there. We were "green" and didn't know how long a week really was.
I think we left Ashby at about 3 a.m. to get in a good day and Howard had a couple of chickens or something to deliver to an older aunt and uncle of his, from his folks. We got there so early we got them out of bed to deliver the gifts.
They gave us a lot of instructions, which we didn't understand, about finding the fairgrounds. We found them anyway and walked all day and took in the evening things. We planned to sleep in the car, mostly, while we were there. [31.191-3]
Norman Peterson worked in Minneapolis and Howard knew where his apartment was, but by the time we found it all the apartments were dark. We thought Norman could help explain our presence there if we got questioned, so we parked in the parking lot behind the apartment building and slept until daylight. By then I felt like I was 90 years old, with rheumatism. [31.191-4]
We went back and toured the fair again the second day. I had a cousin from Wisconsin (Viola Olson) who had a beauty parlor in Minneapolis. I called her that day and she said there was a vacant "sleeping room" in the apartment building where she lived. We could rent that, so we looked her up that night and got the room. By then we felt like two dirty hoboes and were sure glad to see a bathroom and bed again. [31.192-1]
Vi had three girls from Wisconsin staying with her, working and/or going to school, so we got up and ferried them all to work or school in the morning. The first one went to work in a restaurant at 6 a.m., but we were used to getting up early and two days of walking the fairgrounds were plenty. We toured the places of interest we could find in Minneapolis during the days and took all the girls to the fairgrounds for the night life -- first the horse show (early) and then the other shows and attractions. [31.192-2]
There was a big draft horse parade in the show arena before the horse show and the first night a "green" character was leading a big, Belgian yearling colt around. The colt got excited and the fellow leading it got scared and got way on the end of the rope. The big colt made a circle right through the band that was playing.
I heard you could get a free ticket for leading a horse in the parade and this looked like a challenge. The next day I went to the horse barn and asked if any of the horse breeders wanted someone to lead one of the green colts in the parade that night. They did. I had a big, nervous beauty of a colt in the parade for three nights, or so, but I kept a close hold on the halter and didn't have any trouble at all. [31.192-3]
By the fifth day we had had all the city and fair we could stand. We hated to show up at home after saying we were going to stay a week, but we decided to drive home that night anyway, after everything was over.
After we had driven out of the city for an hour or so, we stopped at a truck stop for coffee. Then, after driving most of another hour, we came to a sign that said St. Paul 10 miles straight ahead. We had had so little sleep for five days that we were driving in our sleep. We pulled into the edge of a farmer's field and slept until 8 a.m. We started back in the right direction again and got home just before noon. [31.192-4]