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Mabel Hiller


Kristyne Lyon


6th Grade 1993, Tri-County School, Karlstad,Minnesota


2nd Place

Kittson County Historical Society GenealogyEssay Contest


Those were the good old days

My great grandmother was born on December 29, 1908 in alog house out in the country in the Pembina Hills. Her father helped deliverher as there was no doctor that lived near by. The closest large town thathad one was Langdon, North Dakota. Her mother was 46 when she was bornand 52 when her youngest brother was born. Her parents named her Mabel. She was the only child out of ten children that did not have a middle name.

Being the eight child born, she had three older brothers,four older sisters, and two younger brothers.

Her parents were Sven and Syvernia Hiller. They both camefrom Norway when they were in their teens. Sven came from Halingdar, Norwayand her mother came from Humberdhal, Norway.

School was different when she was little because it wasin a one room school house but it was in the town of Vang, North Dakota. The walk was one and one half miles each way. The subjects she enjoyedthe most were music, spelling and reading. They played games like blindmansbluff, pump pump pull away, and dominoes.

She learned to play the piano and harmonica by ear.

My great grandmother finished eighth grade as that wasthe last grade for country school. Grades nine through twelve were consideredhigh school. In order to attend high school, she would have had to livein Walhalla with someone. So instead, she stayed at home to help her motherand later went to work.

Since she had no grand parents living in this country,she adopted an older lady that lived near by. Her name was Mrs. Tynasvik. This lady would come and get my great grandmother when there were thunderstorms as she did not like to be alone.

She told me a story about Mrs. Tynasvik. She was walkingto town through the field by my great Grandma's house when she saw thata big pig was loose. She started to scream and the pig started to chaseher, so she ran to the top of a big brush pile. The pig just stayed atthe bottom of the pile snorting at her while she screamed louder. My greatgrandma and her brothers heard her screaming and ran to the field to findher at the top of the pile. The poor lady was in such a disarray that theyjust stood their and laughed because it was such a funny sight. She thoughtthat the pig was mad because she did not like pigs, so they told it waso.k. Great grandma took her home and she didn't make it to town that day.

Another story was great grandma and her sister, Emma, weregoing to make bread. When they were adding the flour, they found flourbug in it as they did not have air tight containers. So, instead of throwingit in the garbage, they thought they would feed it to the chickens. Whenthey were feeding the chickens, there were a few that were really aggressiveones that ate too much of the dough. They didn't think anything of it. They went back to the house to make another batch of bread and when theywent outside later they found those chickens had blown up and died. So,their mother would not find out about the chickens, they got a shovel andburied them.

When she was real small, about five or six, her mothergave her money and she walked to town and was going to buy herself a treat. She really liked coconut, so she decided that was what she was going tobuy. It did not come in bags like it does now. It came from a real coconut. When she got to the store, she shyly asked the lady who owned the storefor some coconut. The lady asked her if she was going to eat it or bakewith it. She was so shy and embarrassed she went out of the store withoutthe coconut and ran all the way home to her mother. She said she did notgo to the store alone again for a few years.

Great grandma always enjoyed working. When she was young,she helped on the farm with the animals. As she got older, she startedbaby sitting for the neighbors. At the age of fourteen, she started cleaningpeople's houses. At eighteen, she moved to Langdon, North Dakota and workedat the hotel and restaurant.

When she was twenty -one, she starting working as a cookin a cook car. This was like a rail car on wheels. All the meals for thethreshing crew were cooked in it. They also slept in them at night.

They went from farm to farm. It took about a month forharvest to be completed. It was the first time she ever saw an orange. They got a whole box of them to feed the crew. Her friend and later sister-in-law,Millie Galloway, worked with her in this cook car. At night, they wouldlay in bed and eat oranges as they were a novelty. They ate so many ofthem that they had to have them buy another box to feed the crew. For themonth that she worked, she made about $100.00. Back then, that was a lotof money.

Some of her favorite things to do when she was young wereto go to dances and box socials. These socials were when you bought a nicelunch in a pretty basket or box to a social gathering. They were sold tothe highest bidder and they had to share the lunch with who made it.

Great grandma met the man she was going to marry when shewas still in school. She was only about thirteen or fourteen. She toldme that he was riding a motorcycle and it was the first one that she hadever seen. She thought it was a really funny looking bike. When she wastwenty-four and working in Walhalla, she met him again. His name was CurtisEdward Wright. Two months later they were married in Langdon by the Justiceof the Peace. They had a double ceremony with her brother, George, andher best friend, Millie. Then they went and had their wedding picturestaken.

My great grandma had a lot of boyfriends when she was young. She said all of them asked her to marry them, but she said that she washaving too much fun and wasn't ready until she met Curtis. She said mostgirls back then were married when they were seventeen or eighteen maybeeven younger. But she never thought that she would be a spinster.

After they were married, they lived in the Pembina Hillswhere they farmed and her husband worked out for another farmer.

All five of their children were born on the farm. My grandma,Verna, was born one month early because her mother was hit by a car whenshe was in town. Later that night, Grandma Verna was born and only weighedthree pounds and one ounce. She was so small she could fit in the palmof her mother's hand. Great grandma's best friend, Millie, helped deliverher. They put her in a shoe box between two layers of cotton batting andput the box on the door of a warm oven to keep her warm.

Usually babies that were that small died because of lungproblems. But grandma Verna was really strong and hungry.

They moved to town when the children were still in gradeschool.

Curtis worked at the grain elevator and did carpenter work.

When the children were in high school, they moved to afarm south of Warroad where she still lives now at the age of eighty-five.

Some of her fondest memories are of her family when shewas young, playing dolls in the woods with her sister, Emma, and the boatthat they had in the river that they used for fishing and fun. Later, memoriesof her own children when they were growing up and seeing them get marriedand having children of their own. She enjoys all of her grandchildren andgreat grandchildren.

She said maybe she will live long enough to see her greatgreat grandchildren. At present, she has fourteen grandchildren and twenty-fivegreat grandchildren.

Her saddest memories are of her father, mother, husbandand family passing away. Sometimes she feels lonely because all of herfriends and most of her brothers and her sisters are gone. She has twobrothers and one sister still living. I asked her if she wanted to liveas long as her mother did, that was ninety-five and one half years, andshe said that was too long.

My great grandma lives in her own house and is very thankfulto still be able to move around by herself, to buy her own groceries, cleanher house and visit her friends and relatives. Today she still enjoys growingflowers and making quilts.

n groceries, cleanher house and visit her friends and relatives. Today she still enjoys growingflowers and making quilts.