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Eva Gardner: Pioneer


Louis Jerome


Most people of today don't realize just how tough it wasto make a living, just sixty years ago. They think that pioneering endedat the turn of the century; they are wrong. Eva Gardner knows that thisis true. She was born in 1904 and times were still very "tough",even then.

Eva was born in a little house that was located just outsideof Robin, Minnesota. Her parents were Norman and Rose Grumbo. They werevery poor and couldn't afford the luxury of going to a hospital. They hadto have the doctor come out to their little farm and deliver the baby there.When Eva was born, the custom was that the doctor would higher a midwifeor kind of nurse. A midwife had very little training, if any at all, andusually cost a lot. This would sometimes create a problem, but usually theymade it okay.

The house that Eva lived in was a simple two room structure.It had a dining room and a bedroom, which was very small. This house wasa little more modern than most of the other houses of that time, becauseit had a wooden floor. Most of the other houses had dirt floors, which werevery unsanitary. The house, itself, was heated by a stove that burned wood.It was usually a chore every morning to fill the wood box for the stove.

Yes, these were hard times. Eva was just one of the fourchildren that lived in the house. It is kind of hard to believe that sixpeople could live in a house that small, but they managed. Their littlefarm seemed to provide them with all of the vital necessities. They hada few chickens and a few cows. This was all that a family needed to survive.Eva was still too small to do any of the chores, and still was enjoyinglife to the fullest.

When Eva was four years old, her family moved to Drayton,North Dakota. Here her father, Norman, worked as a butcher. He moved herebecause of financial difficulties and was able to earn more money in Drayton.While they lived in Drayton, they stayed with Mrs. Louie Grumbo, NormanGrumbo's mother. The house they stayed in was a pretty large one, comparingit with the house that they left in Robin, Minnesota. The house had fiverooms and was kind of a cottage. It was a regular "luxury house."They lived in Drayton for about three years.

They then moved back to Robin. But this time they movedto a farm that was located a little further out in the country. The farmwas a little larger and did have a larger farm house, which provided a littlemore room for them.

Eva was seven years old at the time they moved here. Itwas at this time that she began to go to school. The only thing was thatshe wasn't able to ride a bus like we do today, instead she had to walk.She usually had to get up very early in the morning to do her chores andto make it possible for her to make it to school on time. The school wasthree miles from where they lived, and took a while to get there every morning.

The school, itself, wasn't anything that we would expect.tosee. It had only one room, in which all of the students were assembled.The students were put into groups according to their age and according tothe grade they were in. The desks that the students used were usually madeout of wood, and were very hard to sit on. Sometimes if they weren't careful,they would get a sliver that was very painful. The school was heated bya large furnace that burned coal, and it was usually located in the backof the room. It was usual;y the chore of some unfortunate boy to fill thefurnace up with coal each morning before school. Sometimes it was so coldthat the students had to huddle around the furnace in order to keep fromfreezing. The teacher would then conduct some game with the students, untilthe school got warm enough to go back to the regular desks. These were justsome of the hardships that Eva went through to get an education.

As soon as Eva was old enough, she had to work out, andshe also had to quit school. She only made it through the eighth grade.This was a very disappointing experience, not able to finish her education.

Eva's first job was as an assistant cook for threshers.She worked on a chow wagon: a wagon where all of the food was prepared.She usually worked for custom threshers. A custom thresher was a man whoowned a threshing machine and went around to all of the farms, and did thethreshing for the farmers. He usually hired many groups of men, and thiswas why they needed a chow wagon. Eva got paid fairly well; she earned aboutfour dollars a week. The reason that the pay was so low was that the yearwas 1917, and the United States had just entered the war in Europe.

Eva worked next as a housekeeper. This job paid a littlebetter than the cooking job, but wages were still pretty low. She workedout helping to support her parents for about eight years.

Eva then got married to Frank Gardner in 1925. Frankwas not a rich man. and had worked his entire life, just as Eva had done.This was probably the main reason that they were so happily married.

Frank was a blacksmith and a carpenter, and earned a comfortablewage. A blacksmith was still in great demand at this time, since the horselesscarriage hadn't made its way into the lives of most of the peoplethat lived around there. Since the car wasn't as of yet in everybody's home,Frank did much repair work on carriages. He also forged horseshoes and didforge some parts for cars. His job was usually a very tiresome one and heworked many hours a day.

Frank and Eva lived in Neche, North Dakota for alittle while, right after they were married. They then moved to Pembina,North Dakota. This was where they lived, but Frank opened a blacksmith'sshop in St. Vincent, Minnesota, which was just across the river from Pembina.He made a comfortable wage of about $48 a month. After a few years theymoved to St. Vincent to make it more convenient for Frank to work. Theylived in St. Vincent for a few years and then Frank changed his profession.He worked as a carpenter and earned more money than he did as a blacksmith.Frank's work as a carpenter took him to many places in the Red River Valley.He worked many long hours and many times didn't come home. This was theonly thing that Eva didn't like about his work. Frank worked as a carpenterup until his death in 1959. But Frank's greatest gift to Eva was that ofbuilding the house that she lives in today. He drew up the plans and builtthe house himself. This proves that he was a very patient and hard workingman.

Today Eva lives in her home in St. Vincent, Minnesota.She is still very active and is still contributing to the community. Sheworks as a baby sitter in a private home, and also does house cleaning foran older couple.

Eva has lived in St. Vincent for thirty-five years, andhas seen it when it was a booming town of over 1,000 people. She has seenit when it had two banks and two saloons, and also a couple of grocery stores.Today, she sees St. Vincent as a run down, old town. Today, all that ithas is a post office, and a population of about 175 people.

Yes, Eva has lived all of her life in the Red River Valley,and has seen some very historic things. Her life may not be one of greathistorical value, but it does show the great changes that have happenedover just the past sixty years. It shows the great contrast of life thenand life today. It shows us how lucky we really are and how thankful weshould be for all of the "luxuries" we have today. Eva has liveda full life and still has many years ahead of her. She says thatshe wouldn't change her life for anything in the world. Eva is truly a "pioneerof the Red River Valley."


Gardner, Eva G. (Interview)

r Valley."


Gardner, Eva G. (Interview)