This is Part III of our six-part series.
Note to readers from Kristina Gray: This is the third 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.
One essay that stood out to me, that might have been titled “Accident Prone Grandpa,” was written by Ross Anderson, whom I wrote about earlier. He described his grandfather Roy Anderson’s life in such a way.
He was born with the help of a midwife on September 21, 1929, one of nine children. His oft used quote for all of his children and grandchildren was, “always be careful.” Ross wrote, “Growing up on the farm, my grandpa was very busy…Back then he helped milk the cows, cleaned in the barn, worked with horses, and even ran his dad’s saw mill. My grandpa hated horses! He had the worst experiences with them, he was kicked by them, stepped on by them and even had runaways.”
This happened because Roy Anderson started helping his dad with everything and anything he could when he was only 4-5 years old. A serious accident happened on his fifth birthday while he was running the saw mill and he nearly cut his thumb off. No stitches then because that would have involved a doctor’s bill. He also fell in the cellar and his lip was gashed on a nail. He didn’t get stitches for that either. Another bad accident occurred when he was 15 or 16 years old and he fell off the top of a “bunda” load on a trailer pulled by horses. A bunda was a stack of grain bundled after being harvested. When he fell, it was right on his neck which he doesn’t remember but he admits that working on the farm was very dangerous back then.
Another thing Ross’ grandpa remembers is cutting wood which helped him to get very strong. They cut it to warm their house that had no insulation but also he and his brothers sold the wood for little or nothing to others who used it for fuel in the winter time. His grandmother admits that during the Great Depression her family had some of their clothes made from feed sacks. Since both grandparents grew up in small households, they always seemed to have what they needed. In fact, his great grandpa was able to save enough money to build a bigger house for his large family. His grandpa’s neighbors who had nothing would come to his house to stay or have supper with them. His family was always happy.”
Ross continued to describe both of his grandparents’ early childhood memories. He wrote that his grandpa and siblings played games like softball, “steal sticks,” “hide and seek,” and “ante-I-over.” They never had a TV or radio, until about 1950, when they got electricity. His grandpa liked to read and he read many books under lamp light in his bedroom, often running out of kerosene. Usually as children, they had to be outside if they wanted to do something, so Ross’ grandpa loved to explore in the woods when he was young. During the winter he loved to skate on the nearby frozen pond. In contrast, the all-time favorite pastime for Ross’ grandmother was to play “restaurant” with her cousin.
Sarah’s grandmother admitted that “food had changed a lot for her because of her Finnish heritage. Finnish food was plain, like milk potatoes (which is like a soup) compared to what she eats now, such as pizza and spaghetti.” Sarah asked her how clothing styles have changed, her grandmother said for school, “We didn’t wear slacks, we had to wear a dress.” They also wore shoe covers over their shoes in order to protect them. She also remembers they had to hand crank the car in order to get it started instead of turning a key. To get to school, Sarah’s grandmother had to walk two miles to meet the bus stop to go to the Cromwell school district. She remembered only having three kids in the first and second grades for her classmates but eventually graduating from high school with 28 kids.
Since Sarah’s grandma is third generation Finnish she knows how to speak Finnish fluently and continues to communicate with relatives who still live in Finland. She often pulls out old photos of family members who are related to Sarah in some distant way and seems to know what is going on in their lives whether they live in Finland or the U.S. Sarah wrote: “Grandma comes from a traditional country background. She believes in practicing proper etiquette so if she is going to have visitors, she will have coffee and snacks ready for their visit because that is the proper and polite thing to do…When asked what was important to her as a child, the things she told me all had to do with keeping food on the table and doing farm work.”
Katie’s interviewee had more to say about his younger years and work on the farm. “One of the very first jobs he had done was feeding grain to a bull on the farm. It was a mean, angry old bull, one you would not want to mess with.” He also worked on a dairy farm, putting out hay and milking the cows and any other jobs that needed to be done. He said, “It was hard, sweaty and low pay, but good experience.” Katie mused, “I thought how much our work ethic has changed throughout the years. Today most people like to do the least possible and kids are more into video games and hanging out with friends than working to earn things they want. He explained that if he wanted a pop or a candy bar, he would go out and earn it himself. Unlike today’s kids who expect it to be handed to them and not have to work for it. Another job that Katie’s interviewee did was selling fifteen cent “grit” on his bicycle going throughout the town. “Grit was the saying for newspaper that he delivered on his shiny bike. After the paper took out the ten cents for profits, that would leave him with five cents earnings.”
Katie was curious what school was like back in his days growing up. He told her that “schools aren’t really different than the ones today, but there was less political matter in the schools and more religious freedoms.” He attended four rural schools and his favorite subject was reading. He loved to read and he would rather read a book than do anything else. He was often found in his room or in the library reading books.
Finally, I’ll end with what Ross wrote about his grandparents Roy and Emojean Anderson’s observations about the biggest changes they have witnessed over their lifetimes. “For my grandpa, being a farmer his whole life, he thinks this new technology with farming is just awesome! He can’t believe how big all of the machinery has gotten. He remembers when it was a big deal when a team of two horses could pull a two bottom plow! Now, our biggest piece of tillage equipment is a 60 foot cultivator. He says, ‘I would have never thought that would ever have happened in my lifetime.’ Another big thing he likes is the harvest equipment. Back then, he had to bundle the grain by himself and then put them in the harvester. ‘Now, it’s all done with one machine, unreal, the capability of these machines!’ he said.”
Ross said his grandma really loves all the modern conveniences like a washing machine and dryer, electrical appliances and her most favorite, a sewing machine. Grandma does a lot of quilting at church and she would be lost without her sewing machine…Some things both of them miss is being young and strong.
Grandpa isn’t able to do much lifting on the farm now anymore and he really gets frustrated when he can’t lift something that needs to be.
He said, “Enjoy your younger years as much as you can! Before you know it, you’ll be doing this for your grandkids!”