Ben Jansen: From Collect On Delivery To CarrotJuice
Senior High Division
As you grow older, I hope that you will keep raw vegetablejuice in mind. If you are of failing health, have had a heart attack, orjust don't feel right, a little carrot juice might be just what you needto get you feeling right again. For some proof, go talk to Ben Jansen ofHallock, Minnesota. After two heart attacks, last year he started on rawvegetable juice and is now enjoying a remarkable degree of health.
Ben Jansen started life in the Dutch community of SiouxCenter, Iowa on April 8, 1903. Sioux Center was settled in the 1870's byBen's grandparents after they came across Iowa in covered wagons. He wasthe first child of John and Johanna Jansen. After they had been marriedfor almost a year, they discovered Johanna was in the family way. She startedto save a little money. By careful saving, she was able to set aside 25or 50 cents each week. When the time came to have the baby, she had savedbetween 15 and 18 dollars. The doctor collected that money upon deliveryof the baby and if anyone asks Ben how much he's worth, he just says, "Somewherebetween fifteen and eighteen dollars." For the doctor, Ben was a C.O.D.baby.
Schooling at that time was not as common as it is today.Most people were lucky if they received an eighth grade education. Ben wentto a private parochial school for eight years and then enrolled in an academy,with the intention of becoming a minister. But the price of farm commoditiesdropped and Ben had to drop out after one year and go to work. After thehigh schools came in 1909, a high school education became much more common.After a person graduated from a high school, they could take 3 or 4 weekstraining in what was called a "normal school" and then receivea certificate qualifying them to teach.
Dutch was still spoken in the school and church when Benwas growing up. One year, for the Christmas program at church, Ben's fatherwanted him to give a recitation. Ben didn't want to do it, but he did wantthe saxophone that his father promised him if he could make a good recitation.Ben learned the piece and when Christmas morning came, Ben walked up tothe front of the church. Ben couldn't get started, so the minister, whowas the prompter, gave him a few words to get started. Ben said those andthe minister said a few more. They continued in that fashion until theyreached the end. Ben's father wasn't there and never found out about it,so Ben got his saxophone.
When James J. Hill died in 1916, Ben's father bought someof the land in the estate for $142.50 an acre. Johanna was against movingto Northwestern Minnesota but in 1919 they lost the farm in Iowa and hadonly the farm in Kittson County. They drove up Highway 75, known as the"King of Trails" on a trip that took three days to cover 470 miles.They had put what they thought were four good tires on the car, but by thetime they got to Hallock, all the tires had blown out at least once. A fewyears later, they made the trip in a day and a half, which the people inSioux Center thought was quite an accomplishment.
The land that John bought was covered with weeds, mostlysow thistle and quack grass. There used to be 100 man crews that would walkover a quarter section, chop off the poplar trees and pile them up in rows.After it had dried, this was used for firewood.
Ben was married to Helen Cameron in 1929, after they hadbeen going together for 3 years. They met in the church choir. The choirwas a good place for romances, as there were three going on at the sametime. After the wheat market dropped, Ben hardly had enough money left topay for the marriage license. It's a wonder young people ever had enoughnerve to get married.
Men who were farming when Ben Jansen started experienceda lot of trouble. Ben remembers the dust storms, or the "black blizzards"of the 1930's. The dust storms got so bad that at time you couldn't seefrom one telephone pole to another. In 1936, there was no moisture fromlate April to August. Of course, there was no crop. After a winter blizzard,the snow goes away eventually. After a black blizzard, the dust stays. Thereis a story about a farmer in Manitoba, who tied a logging chain to a talltelephone pole. When the chain started to move and stretch out in the wind,he knew he was in for an awful blow. When the wind started to crack thelinks in the chain, he knew he was in for a bad dust storm.
The farmer also had trouble with rust in 1935 and 1937.At that time, there were not too many rust resistant wheats. After theygot these, they didn't have as much trouble and production climbed and sodid the prices.
In 1920, the price of wheat was $3.20 a bushel. The governmenthad set prices after World War I, so the price had stayed up. But, in thefall of 1920, in a period of 5 or 6 weeks, the price dropped to $1.50 abushel. In 1922, it was 85 cents a bushel. Occasionally, the price wouldrise because of a scare of a shortage. But overall, it stayed around onedollar throughout the 1920's. In the early 1930's, Ben and his brother,Ted, sold 4 thousand bushels of wheat and only netted 28 cents on the bushel.Barley was worth 7 or 8 cents a bushel, and oats was only about 2 or 3 cents.
There was once a farmer in Manitoba who shipped a carloadof barley. He didn't hear much from the station agent until a few weekslater he called up the farmer and told him to throw in a couple of turkeysthe next time he came to town. The grain in the railroad car wasn't worthenough to pay the freight. A while later the farmer tried again, and thesame thing happened. The station agent didn't see the farmer for a few weeksand asked him why he wasn't shipping any more barley. The farmer said, "Iran out of turkeys."
One time Ben and his brother took some veal calves andsome cream to town to sell. The roads were bad and they got stuck two orthree times on the way home. When he got home, Ben found he had lost hispocketbook with twenty-five dollars in it. Those were hard times, and thatwas all the money Ben had in the world. So, they retraced their steps, andfound the pocketbook at the edge of a big mud hole. Ben thought he was thehappiest guy in the whole world.
There were also prairie fires on the unplowed land. Ben'sfather also told him about clouds of grasshoppers and floods.
With his brother, Ted, Ben farmed over 3,500 acres. Althoughtheir land was separate, they shared machinery. At one time, the Jansenbrothers had: 4 crawler tractors, 4 or 5 rubber tired tractors, 5 combines,4 swathers, and 6 drills, along with other assorted machinery.
Ben has always had a fascination for machinery. Back in1911, John Jansen bought a tractor. It was a huge machine with a large flywheeland drive wheel. When they moved to Minnesota, it was shipped up on thetrain. They used to have quite a bit of trouble with it. Ted and Ben installeda magneto and it ran for many years. During World War II, they sold it forscrap metal, which was the patriotic thing to do. Today, that tractor couldbe sold for ten or twelve thousand dollars as an antique. They never werepaid for it after they sold it for scrap.
As the years went by, they would buy a larger tractor andthen buy a larger threshing machine to go with it. One year the threshingmachine was burned up in a fire, which was quite a blow to Ben and Ted'sfarming operation.
Threshing crews used to travel around the country sellingtheir services to the farmers. On days that it rained, they would play cards.Usually, they would all lose their pay to the card shark in the group. Sometimes,he would play the boss, and lose all his money. Then, the bosses would windup with all their money. In those days, threshers and baseball players wereconsidered a low breed of fellow.
During prohibition days, it was hard to get alcohol, butsomeone always had some. At times, they would go drink in the back of thefuneral parlor. One night a man emptied one of the coffins and climbed inside.When the drinkers came, he lifted the lid and said, "How about onefor me?" The funeral parlor didn't get as much after hours businessafter that.
When combines came along in 1927 or 1928, there was quitea feeling against them. People felt the government wouldn't stand for it,because it would create unemployment. The Jansens bought their first combinein 1933. Since there weren't any moisture testers, they had to test thegrain by biting it. After a while, the moisture tester came and they weremuch more accurate.
Grain used to be hauled to Humboldt on a wagon box thatheld 75 bushels. It was so cold that a person had to walk most of the wayto keep from freezing. The more fortunate people had four horse teams thatpulled a 125 bushel wagon. On these, you could sit up on the box and freeze.
When there was snow, a bob-sleigh was used to haul grain.The trip took all day, and when you got back, you loaded up again to gothe next morning. That is, if the weather was good.
In 1926, the first trucks came out. They bought an International"Six-Speed Special" in 1928. They could haul 100 bushels in ashort time and also got to sit in a warm cab. Anyone who had a truck wasa pretty popular fellow.
When it rained, the ruts in the road sometimes got a footdeep with water standing in them. Then, a person had to wait for grain haulinguntil the roads dried up.
Ben Jansen always has had a great deal of interest in communityservices. His reason is that, "Maybe I talked a little too much atmeetings." For anyone to be a full citizen, he must engage in a littlecommunity service. Ben has never regretted the community work he has done.
Ben served as the Sunday School Superintendent of the localPresbyterian Church for 14 years. He also dedicated 16 years of work onthe Church Board. Ben has also made valuable contributions in the area ofeducation. He served on the Hallock Board of Education for 10 years as theclerk. Ben was also on the County Survey Committee when they divided upthe school districts in Kittson County. There were originally 81 schooldistricts in Kittson County. Now, there are only six.
In 1945, Ben joined the Lions, and is a charter memberof the Hallock Lions Club. He has held many offices in the organization,including President. At one time, he also served as the District Lions zonechairman and Deputy Lions Governor. Then, in 1955, he was elected Governorof the zone in which he lives. This zone includes: Northwest Minnesota,Manitoba, and Northwest Ontario. During his time in office, he visited clubsall over that area. He went to the meetings, gave a little talk or speech,and saw how the club was running. During the year that he was Governor,Ben logged over 15,000 miles driving. At one time, he was also made an honorarycitizen of the city of Winnipeg. That is quite an honor.
Ben has also worked in the Masons. He joined that organizationin 1939, and has held all of the chairs. He served as secretary of the Masonsfor 18 years.
In 1942, Ben joined the Kem Temple in Grand Forks. Althoughhe had to give it up after a number of years, it was one of the organizationshe enjoyed most. Ben played baritone saxophone in the Shrine Band, whichtraveled all over the Upper Midwest for parades. He enjoyed the marchingand the colorful uniforms. Ben also made many friends in the Shrine. Rareis the day he can't pick up the Grand Forks paper and not find a name herecognizes.
Ben feels that one of his outstanding thrills in life iswhen he was a delegate to the Shrine Convention in 1953. The conventionwas held in New York City and took place in mid-July. There were horsesmarching in a parade with lights attached to their legs which created amost impressive sight.
Ben and Helen Jansen had three boys: Charles, Kenneth,and Ralph. Charles went to the University of Minnesota but his college wasinterrupted when he spent one and a half years in Korea. He returned toschool and is a bank manager in New Mexico. Kenneth also attended the Universityof Minnesota and is now a minister in Denver, Colorado. He also spends quitea bit of time in computer programming. Ralph attended the University ofNorth Dakota and now teaches at a junior college in Wilmar, Minnesota.
The house that the boys grew up in is a log house thatis over 80 years old. After Ben and Helen were married in 1929, they livedwith her parents for a few years. They moved into their house in 1934 andhave been living there ever since. The house is one of the first in Hallockand the walls are of log. They have been covered and the walls are overa foot thick.
Occasionally, Ben delivers the news of Kittson County onKROX radio in Crookston, Minnesota. His broadcasting career began when Benmet Calvin Bouvette. Calvin introduced him to Clifford and they became goodfriends. Ben was always interested in journalism and wrote a few articlesfor the Kittson County Enterprise. About 10 years ago, Clifford was goingaway and asked Ben to take the news for him. Ben did and he was good atit. Ben attempts to keep the news on a human interest level whenever heis called on to deliver it. He tries to stay with things that people understand,because the big news is happening so far away from us. Ben always admiredand respected Cliff Bouvette and that's why he became involved with radiobroadcasting.
At the present time, Ben Jansen is enjoying a well deservedretirement. He gradually got completely away from the pressures of farmingafter he had a heart attack in 1968. After a heart attack in 1973, he neverfelt quite right again. But on April 19, 1974, he met an old friend in Hallock,who told him about raw vegetable juices. Since then, he and his wife havedrunk a pint of juice each day. Since they started, Ben figures that theyhave consumed over 1,200 pounds of carrots or 70 gallons of juice. But,best of all, Ben's health has shown a remarkable improvement.
It seems remarkable that a man who has been as busy asBen Jansen can still keep on going strong. But Ben is still very activein community affairs and service organizations. It is hard to say whereBen's major achievement in life lies. When you have accomplished a greatmany things, helping a great many people, it is impossible to pick out onegreat achievement. So, we must say that a man's whole life is a great achievement.Ben Jansen's life is one fascinating story after another. It is a greatstory that leads from a collect on delivery baby, to raw vegetable juiceas a guideline for the future.
Jansen, Ben, Hallock, Minnesota, Interview on January 17,1975
Jansen, Ben, Hallock, Minnesota, Interview by telephone,February 4, 1975
Jansen, Helen, Hallock, Minnesota, Interview on January17, 1975
nsen, Ben, Hallock, Minnesota, Interview on January 17,1975
Jansen, Ben, Hallock, Minnesota, Interview by telephone,February 4, 1975
Jansen, Helen, Hallock, Minnesota, Interview on January17, 1975