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Clarence Iten, Humboldt's Water Provider


Kurt Keena

Sixth Grade


Perhaps the best known telephone number in northwesternMinnesota is 379-3129. Need water for your dry cistern? Prompt, courteouswater-hauling service will be assured to customers of Clarence Iten by simplydialing the above number listed in the Humboldt directory. Hauling waterfor forty years to supplement farm income has enabled Mr. Iten to acquiremany lasting friendships.

Mr. Iten was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, in 1913. Hisearly childhood was spent on his parents four hundred thirty acre farm whichthey bought for thirty-five cents an acre. His farm chores included helpingcare for sixty head of cattle and twelve horses with they farmed with. Theyplowed the fields with three gang plows each pulled by four horses. Theyfertilized fields with manure applied with a spreader.

In the winter, they piled ice and packed it for the summer.They did this by cutting ice into squares and piling them eleven or twelveblocks high depending on the ice house. They packed sawdust all over themgood and tight, about fifteen or sixteen inches thick. They got the sawdustfrom sawmills. When they wanted ice, they shoveled the sawdust aside andchipped some out to use. They used the ice for cooling things and makingice cream. For ice cream, you put the ice into a gunny sack and crushedit, packed it around the ice cream cooler and turned the crank until youthought your arm sockets would wear out.

Mr. Iten started school in November and quit in March sohe could help with field work. His mother sewed all his clothes until hestarted school. Classes in school were large. There were forty-two studentsin his sixth grade.

Candy was cheap then and for five cents you could buy abottle of pop and a huge candy bar. For a penny, you could get a handfulof bulk candy. In the winter, they skied down hills and tobogganed behindhorses. For fun, in the summer time, Clarence went roller skating and swimming.They had a lake right outside the back door. They had no diving board, sothey dived from a boat in the middle of the lake. The lake never floodedbecause it was fed by springs underground. It was an average sized lakewith plenty of fish in it.

To earn money during the depression, Mr. Iten worked ona farm in northwestern Minnesota for eleven dollars a month. Later, he workedin the dairy and earned thirty dollars a month. That was a very good salaryin the depression. The average wage in good times was $1.25 a day. Clarenceremembers when they sold a hog during the depression and got five dollarsfor it. They sold a cow for four cents a pound. Wheat sold for five centsa bushel.

In 1936, Clarence married Pearl Diamond who operates theonly restaurant in Humboldt, Minnesota. Clarence was experienced in farming,so he bought a fertile farm. Then he went into the water hauling businessas a job for extra money. In 1963, he sold his farm and bought some landin town. There was a cafe on part of the land. This building was remodeledand opened for business.

Mr. Iten had never tasted deer meat until he moved to northernMinnesota. His favorite pastime is hunting for deer and water fowl. He enjoysliving in our small town of Humboldt and hopes to continue serving his customerswith all the water they need for many more years.


Iten, Clarence, Humboldt, Minnesota, Interview, January26, 1975

larence, Humboldt, Minnesota, Interview, January26, 1975