Catch Kristina Gray at the Crookston Library on April 10 beginning at 6 p.m. as she looks into Crookston's past.
Note to readers from Kristina Gray: This is the second installment in a six-part series, with this chapter encompassing the reminiscing of old timers in their own words or according to my University of Minnesota, Crookston students’ interviews and writing up what their grandparents told them. In addition to the six-part series which will continue once a week through April, join me on a look into the past in the Crookston Daily Times’ 2013 Community Connections special edition, which publishes on Friday, April 26. In the meantime, I will be discussing Crookston’s earliest history on Wednesday, April 10 at the Crookston Library, beginning at 6 p.m. All are invited.
My UMC composition students were required to first interview and then write a five page essay about an old timer (preferably their grandparents) including three good quotes from that interview. I have their permission to share what they wrote for this assignment. I was impressed by the common themes that emerged. Grandparents were born in the late 1920s or early 1930s worked very hard for the benefits we enjoy in the 21st century. The other themes that came through were the importance of big families, education, face to face communication with neighbors and families and a strong work ethic needed to survive in the early pioneering days.
One student, Ross Anderson, from Karlstad interviewed his fraternal grandparents, Roy and Emojean Anderson. When Ross asked about the impact of the Great Depression on their farming family, his grandpa told him this motto: “Take what you want, but eat what you take. “ This meant to not to waste food because he grew up in a large family of nine children and other people were struggling. Ross explained, “They had pigs on the farm that they would butcher if they needed meat and cows to milk if they needed milk. Because of all the work, it seemed like there was never any downtime for them when they were kids!” During those lean years, everyone had their assigned roles in getting the many farm chores done. Apparently when Ross’ grandfather got older, he would go deer hunting with his relatives and that was a very important family time together that built a lot of memories. Hunting for deer “was also important to his family, because it was basically free meat for them.”
For Ross’ grandparents the “coffee time” was a usual daily event that happened at three o’clock in the afternoon. “Neighbors and relatives would come over just about every day to sit and visit while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. For my grandma, family gatherings were a big part in her family because her side of the family didn’t get together very often. So when they did, they would have big bonfires and her family would be singing songs until the break of dawn almost. These are things you don’t really see very much and my grandma misses that.” Ross’ grandma had grown up with ten people in their household. “Large families were very common back then because everyone grew up on farms and with larger families meant more workers for the farm.”
Sarah Frink wrote about her Finnish grandmother, “Trying to imagine my grandma’s youth compared to now, it seems it was a much simpler time but hard physical work.” Most of her grandma’s memories centered around farm work when Sarah asked what she remembered most as a child. These memories included planting crops, milking cows, making hay in the summer, picking potatoes in the fall and picking wild berries. Is it any wonder that Sarah’s grandma was taught at her elementary school in Cromwell, Minnesota to have clean hands. Here is what she remembered her fourth grade teacher, Marian White, did, “She would make all the students put our hands down on the desk to make sure we had clean fingers, and we had to put a hankie, pencil, eraser and comb on the desk also. We had to have those every day for class. Also, at lunch she would teach us all how to eat with proper etiquette, like how to butter bread and cut the meat.”
One other theme that came through was that family members died. If it was the father, the bread winner of a big family, it impacted everyone. This happened to Sarah Frink’s grandma when she was only nine years old; her dad was killed in a tragic accident which changed her way of living forever. In the case of Calvin Schermerhorn’s grandpa, named Gene, he “was already accustomed to working on his family’s dairy and grain farm. By the time he was fifteen years old, he was able to run the farm with the help of his mother. This was really helpful to his father. The next year his father passed away. As everyone knows, it is a difficult thing to handle when losing a family member…Running the farm was a full time job which left little time for him to think of much else. As all things though, time heals all and you keep on keeping on.”
Calvin’s observation about the differences between his life and that of his grandfather is the following: “Gene and I don’t have a whole lot in common. I’d have to blame it on the different time periods we grew up in…When I was playing in the woods back behind my house, Gene was out milking cows and working on the farm. Then in middle school I was over at my friend’s place playing video games and Gene at the same age was bucking bales of hay and milking cows. Then in high school all I had to do was school work and chores around the house. Gene had little school then and lots to work on around the farm because that was more important than school at that time.”
Katie Silcox interviewed an older gentleman whom she has known for years, he chose not to reveal his name for her assigned essay. He has served as an important role model for her since her dad passed away many years ago. The one thing they had in common was his father also died when he was an adolescent. His mother is still alive at age 95 and even though he was one of 12 siblings, he told Katie, “Your parents never forget you.” His mother had a saying that she told all her children often, “Chickens always come home to roost.” Katie admitted this expression confused her but he explained, “Everything you do always comes back to you, and everything you do wrong has a consequence.” Katie went on to write some of his more serious childhood mishaps or accidents he had while growing up but how he healed after all of them.