I started to envision a campground on our land on the west side of Ashby. I knew we would have to have some sanitary facilities, like toilets and showers, and also more reason to be there at all times. The old Ashby Laundry was a shambles then and I could picture a new laundry with toilets and showers that the campers could use. [314-7]
Carlson Brothers of Evansville drew me a blueprint of a cement block building with laundry and car wash below and two apartments upstairs. When we found out the estimated cost, it scared us right out of our shoes and we forgot the whole thing. The way inflation turned out, it would have been a good deal, if we had known. [315-1]
During all this figuring, we became laundry minded more than campground minded. Also, Wally Jenson from Milaca started stopping in. He sold laundry equipment in a big way and we had many interesting discussions about laundries and got still more laundry minded. [315-2]
In the spring of 1970, I was coming down the street from the school house one day and I looked over at the old laundry building. It was all vacant except for the small part that was the laundry then. There was a big hole in the roof on the north side that had been chopped in there by the firemen when there was a fire in the attic six or seven years before and never repaired. [315-3]
I got an instant bright idea right then that it would be fun to work that old building over and revamp the 11-year-old, run-down laundry, which wasn't even being swept anymore. [315-4]
Donald Benhardus and his brother Joe owned the building and Hubert Nelson owned the laundry equipment and rented the space it was in. I went out and talked to Donald Benhardus. He said the building was in such bad shape the insurance had been canceled the week before. To every question I asked about it being for sale, the answer was only yes, yes! I went back to Hubert Nelson and his answers were all yes, too! [315-5]
Now for the banker. Different story! He took a pencil and paper and practically proved we couldn't make a go of it. So I tried Lorraine Rylander [president of the bank] and she said, "I'm sure we can work something out." [315-6]
It would take more money than one bank that size was allowed to lend without additional security. So I had to go to a Fergus bank and see if they would go in as co-lenders. [315-7]
What we paid for the building and laundry equipment was a minor item, compared to the cost of remodeling and buying new equipment. [315-8]
Jalmer Benson's crew took on the job of rebuilding the building, by the hour, and Webster Ohren and Orlin Amundson took on the plumbing on evenings and weekends. Esther Moseng said she would work in there, part time. We were supposed to take over the first of July but we weren't done haying, so we told Hubert to keep it until the 4th. [315-9]
On the 4th of July, Beaver and Richard and I took out all the machines that weren't working and there were only four left. Esther and Twila spent the day cleaning up where the machines had been. Only two dryers, out of four, were working, but we got them repaired for $8 and they are all still working 12 years later. [in 1982] [316-1]
There were quite a few other junkers, besides the ones that were hooked up. I told Jim Jones I would give him all the junk machines and old parts and motors if he would bring in his big truck and he got a big flat-bed truckful. [316-2]
We had made a deal for 12 new Whirlpools and they came two or three days later. We had ordered 12 Whirlpools, three Mi-T-Boys, one Big Boy, a dry cleaner, three new water heaters, five new dryers, an extractor, a soap dispenser, a coin changer and a new automatic control for the water softener, all from Wally Jenson.[316-3]
The old water softener was still good but had manual controls and we got an automatic control for it. It is 23 years old now and working as well as ever. [316-7]
The equipment kept coming, a little at a time, and Richard and Beaver were indispensable while installing it. The old water heater leaked and went out every little while, but we nursed it along until we got the two new water heaters. Orlin and Webster got them hooked up at night and people washed clothes every day during all the commotion. [316-4]
Jalmer started remodeling in the laundry and worked his way back and up. The plywood in the ceiling was hanging loose, with insulation falling off it in a few places from the water poured into the attic during the fire several years before. [316-5]
Doors were cut and changed and the big, used Thermopane windows were put into the front. The old front was all glass, old storm windows fitted loosely together. The big, main, front room had been separate from the laundry and had been a mortuary, then a post office and last a sort of haphazard antique store that didn't get off the ground. [316-6]
When we got that room connected up, we put in the first three Mi-T-Boys and the Big Boy washer. We had three or four chairs and the customers would sit and watch the big machines run, like watching TV. [316-8]
The washing customers washed right through the whole remodeling and none of them ever complained at all, but it really got thick in there sometimes, tearing out walls and insulating and lining the whole building with sheet-rock right over the original plywood. [316-9]
When the new machines came, we took out the remaining four machines, advertised them for sale and sold them to a small laundry in Fairmont, north Dakota. [317-1]
One day, I took a shovelful of soot out of the bottom of the chimney and headed for the garbage can. I absent-mindedly walked in front of a 20-inch fan and the soot went to the far corners of the laundry, but nobody either complained or laughed. [317-2]
The sewer was always slow, so one night I poured in a jug of acid. The next morning, the sewer was plugged solid. All the water came up through the floor drains or ran into the cistern under what is now the kitchen. It was a pretty busy day and Twila and Esther spent most of the day sweeping the wash water out of the doors so it could run down the street. We also got a sump pump in the cistern. [317-3]
There was a clean out plug in the cistern, under the kitchen floor, and Richard spent most of the day down there in hip boots, running a 100-foot tape back and forth, trying to push out the plug that was blocking the drain. Most of the 100 feet of tape was out, so the plug was way out under the middle of the tarred street, somewhere. When he would pull it back, small shreds of rug fibers would be on the ball, so we knew it was a lint plug. [317-4]
Richard really worked under discouraging "odds." We tried to call various places for a power rooter, but no one was available, so he kept ramming away. About 4 o'clock, if I remember right, it gave a little and finally, it went. [317-5]
By that time, Twila and Esther had swept so much water through the door that it had run all the way to the end of the street by the cemetery. We have always had such a big volume of water going through that we have never had any more drain trouble. [317-6]
Our next problem was not enough water volume through the 1-inch pipe from the front street, so we ditched in a 2-inch line under the skating rink to the west street. That ditch settled and Beaver filled it with black dirt from up on the field. We had a bright idea to plant tomato plants in that dirt and the idea for the backyard garden grew from that. [317-7]
The room where the kitchen is was stuffed full of old cardboard boxes and cast off washers and parts. That became a kitchen, a little at a time. It had formerly been Milton Smedsrud's office in Ashby. [317-8]
We didn't have a Grand Opening until December, when the remodeling and installing the new equipment were far enough along in the laundry part of the building. We advertised it far and wide and had Polly Langlie make fresh doughnuts all day in the City Restaurant kitchen. There were several drawings for prizes and free washing. [318-1]
We hit worse weather that day, December 5, 1970, than we have had in the 12 years since. The northwest wind blew a gale and the snow was about 50 per cent North Dakota dirt. We could hardly believe the number of people who came, in spite of the weather. The whole family kept on the run all day, carrying hot doughnuts from the City Restaurant and Beaver and Richard kept mopping steadily, mopping up dirt and snow. [318-2]
Before we bought the place, one of the equipment salesmen that we were dickering with went in and looked at it and couldn't figure out why it hadn't been condemned for a laundry because it was in such deplorable shape. After we had it all done over, the former laundry owners would brag to strangers that they used to own the place! [318-3]
When I first remember the building, it was just a big, single-wall shed with sliding doors on the north and east and a small office in the southeast corner. Andrew Olson owned it and sold John Deere horse machinery. He sold a few of the first John Deer tractors and then sold the building to Lewis Hatling, who poured a cement floor through the whole thing and covered the outside with brick roll roofing and the inside with 1/4-inch plywood or slate panels and insulated it for a mortuary. [318-4]
When he sold out, the Post Office moved into the big front room and Robert Hoff had a TV shop in the big back room. We had visions of an apartment and garage in the big back room and Roger Skaar drew several floor plans for it. [318-5]
There are two cisterns or small concrete rooms under the kitchen and the main drain line goes through one of them. Each has a separate cement cover in the floor above them. With an apartment in mind, we ditched a 2-inch drain through those walls and under the floor in the big west room, for a bathroom near the middle of the long, south wall. [318-6]
Mae Borg suggested we try used clothing on consignment back there before we did anything with it. Kathy and Twila took a trip as far south as Redwood Falls looking at such places, including one owned by Mae's sister "Gen" at Gaylord. Jalmer had the building far enough along that we could start that in March of 1971. [319-1]
Everyone was coming up with suggestions for a name and Twila thought of Treasure Cove, which turned out good. We took $50 of laundry money, for change, the first day and paid it back the next day. The Treasure Cove made its own way and built up its own stock after that. [319-2]
The used clothing business sort of "went to pot" because we weren't tough enough about what we took in and then didn't clean out the unsold items often enough. Because of that, a lot of people, especially from Fergus and elsewhere, took advantage of us as a dump-ground. They would have a rummage sale first and then bring us all the things that didn't sell there. They would pack it all in a big box with all the broken toys and junk in the bottom and the few good clothes, etc. on top. [320-4]
They were always in a hurry and would say, "Do what you can with it," and then leave. We would obligingly go through the whole thing and price it and mark each item with their number. That way our place got piled full of too many low grade items. [320-5]
Twila could never stand to throw anything away and no matter how rich they were, the doctors' and lawyers' wives, etc. never forgot to come back and collect the 60 per cent that we gave them. [320-6]
A little furniture and antiques started to work in with the clothing and finally took over. The antiques and furniture were much less work and dirt and lint and much more interesting. The last of the clothing went to the Salvation Army about 1974. [319-3]
Going to sales was just like panning for gold; you never knew when you would find something good. At one sale I bought something I wanted and along with it they put a box of ceramics, which I didn't value any. When we carelessly dumped the box of ceramics to sort and price them, out fell a black swan. It was a "Cambridge Swan." It didn't have a chip on it and that long, slim, neck could easily have been broken off. We sold it to a dealer for $30 but it was worth much more. [320-7]
When some people were going to move away, they would put all the stuff they didn't want to take with them in a garage and we would give them a price on the whole lot. We were about the only ones who could do that, because we had a lot of room and we could unload a lot of poor or worthless items on the farm where we also had our own dump and scrap iron pile. [320-8]
One day Raymond Engen, from southeast of Erdahl, came in. He was in the nursing home and wanted to sell his furniture down on the farm. I went down there with him and spent quite a bit of time looking at the old, dirty stuff. Some pieces would be pretty good if stripped and cleaned up.
I told him what I would give him and he said that was more than twice as much as his cousin, who wanted to buy it, had offered him. When I let him out at the nursing home, I was sure I was going to get it but I didn't hear any more.
One day he came into the laundry and I asked about the furniture. He said, "I sold it to Gilford Jacobson. I told him what you would pay and he said, 'I will give you $5 more,' and that was the best offer I had so he got it."
You can't win with some people.
I read the book Powerline and it reminded me of an interesting bunch we had washing in the laundry one summer. There were from the East and were the wives of the inspectors on the big power line where the terrible battle was. They didn't dare live near the place they worked so they rented places around Ashby, at the motel, etc.
They were a real "live," good-looking bunch and full of fun. They were always afraid of sabotage and had a big, black guard dog in their Suburban when they came in. We sure missed them when they left. We have never had many Easterners. We always called them the power line girls.
We got fooled into a lot of trips to look at furniture and antiques that people called and said they had for sale. After we spent a lot of time looking and giving them a price on it we found out they only wanted us to price it for them so they would know what to charge someone else who wanted it, usually some relatives or neighbors.
One day a local woman called me up with that in mind, to look at some furniture. I thought she meant to sell it to me. She had "antiqued" everything green!
I took one look and said, "That's the worst looking mess I ever saw!" Looking into the next room, I sounded even worse. I said, "A green piano? I've never seen anything so awful!"
Naturally, I didn't price much of it because I didn't even want it. Later I saw her buffet after someone else bought and had it stripped. I didn't pass up the chance to tell her what a beautiful thing it was when they got the green off.
Mitzi was 11 when we started in the laundry and spent her growing up years mostly in there. Before long, she could run any of it as well as we could. The year the clothes went out, we decided we were running the laundry mostly to pay Esther, so she found another job and we took over full time. [319-4]
Kathy was around quite a bit for a while then and went to a lot of auction sales and did quite a bit of both buying and selling. It happened a few times that Mitzi would take care of the store and laundry and Twila and Kathy and I would each go to a sale the same day and all come home with all we could haul. [319-5]
In 1978, we went to 72 auction sales and bought things at every one, 98 items at one of them. The next three years, I went to about half that many each year. I came home from one sale with dishes in the front of the van and picture frames, etc. between the seats. Back of that were several pieces of furniture and in the back end a black pony for Beaver's boys, Wyatt and Weston. It just happened that I had a big, braided rug for "Tony, the Pony," to stand on. That was the most mixed load I ever had. [321-1]
We learned quite a bit the hard way, but we didn't lose an awful lot because of early ignorance. A couple of big, older guys, with alcohol breaths, sold me a few things when we were just getting going on the antiques. [321-2]
One day we all went to sales and left Mitzi to run the place. Those guys came along and asked Mitzi who was in charge there. When she told them she was, they told her they had a "real antique" ironing board. It did look antique, all right, mostly from being discarded and stored out in a leaky shed. They talked her into giving them $8 for a real bargain antique. [321-3]
I think they had picked it up at some vacant farm place and it was only good for kindling wood. All the stuff they brought in had the look of stuff that had been picked up at vacant farms. [321-4]
I don't remember if we left Richard alone more than once, but one day when he was the only one there, they showed up again and talked him into buying some more "real antiques." He gave them a $20 bill and said to come back when I was there and I would give them a check for $10 or $12 for the balance. The whole lot was worth about $10, at the most. [321-5]
They came back after we got there and I told them if they would give me the $20 bill I would give them a check for the whole amount. Maybe they knew I planned to keep the $20 and kick them out. They wouldn't give it to me. I went to find Tom Grover (the village cop) and when we got back they had left town without the check. [321-6]
Pa had bought a pair of cowboy chaps with long, yellow, angora goat hair on heavy hand-tooled leather about 1919. i took them in to the Treasure Cove and hung them as part of the decor while we still had clothing and just a small amount of antiques and furniture. They were in mint condition and almost priceless. I put a "not for sale" tag on them. [321-7]
One day when Mitzi was there alone, a fellow told her, "I am going to take those chaps." She said, "They are not for sale," but he insisted they had a tag on them for just a few dollars. She stood her ground. We found that he had taken a tag from a cheap, unpainted, night stand and put it on the chaps. It was on account of such stunts that there were very few people we dared to leave in charge. [322-1]
When we went to a sale one day, I bought a mounted duck for $2.50. I knew it was illegal to buy or sell any part of a protected bird. One day a fellow came in and asked the price of the mounted duck. I said, "It's not priced. I bought it at a sale just to see how long it would take before the federal wardens came in and confiscated it." [322-2]
He said, "Well, I could confiscate it if it had a price on it." I was talking to the federal warden! [322-3]
The combination of the two businesses made it the most interesting thing in the world to me, just like one endless vacation, after spending all my life doing hard, physical work. Driving around to sales, etc. was just a lark, compared to shearing sheep and all the things we had done the hard way, farming before all the labor-saving machinery had been developed. [319-6]
A few funny things happened, even if they didn't seem funny at the time. The thing I'll remember the longest was when one of the washing customers brought her two small kids in to wash. They were really "hyper" and so was their mother. The oldest one kept his mother on the go, running to the bathroom every few minutes, to get attention. [319-7]
The other one was just beginning to be potty trained, so one day they brought the potty along and set it in the middle of the floor. Of course, she had to go potty right away and started to yell, "I have to go potty," over and over. [319-8]
Her mother was busy loading machines and picked up the chorus, "Yes, you have to go potty," over and over, too. She set her on the potty and went to the other side of the room to load some of those machines. [319-9]
In a few minutes, the kid started to holler, "I'm through, we have to dump the potty," over and over, and in the other room, her mother picked up the chorus again, yelling, "Yes, we have to dump the potty," over and over. [320-1]
Then the kid got off and, with her pants still down around her knees, pulled the half-full potty out and started for the restroom with it, going slip-slop with every step, clear through the whole laundry. [320-2]
Her mother rushed in, after she got there, and dumped what was left. She took two paper towels and made a token pass with them at every slop spot on the way back. We mopped extra well that night! [320-3]
One day I raised the price on a couple of items in the Treasure Cove that I thought were underpriced. Inflation had made them worth more. A woman came in looking for one of them and got mad when she saw that I had raised the price. [322-4]
She came over to the desk and had just opened her mouth, to give me a real blistering for raising the price, when her little girl came in from the laundry with a full bottle of Coke. She dropped it on the cement floor, right between her mother's feet, spilling Coke and broken glass all over them. [322-5]
The mother never got a word out of her mouth to me and I believe I laughed. I could have kissed the kid! [322-6]