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Martin Maier


Randy Clow


Hello! Is Martin there? My furnace is out and I'm cold. Who's Martin? Why he's the man you call when you're in trouble. If youdon't know him, you must be new in town so I'll tell you about him.

Martin Maier was born on June 16, 1903 to Mr. and Mrs.William Martin Maier at Pembina, North Dakota.

Martin attended grade and high school at Pembina. He paidhis way through high school by pumping water and splitting wood for Mrs.Conmy and J. K. Kneeshaw. He also set type for Pioneer Express at 10 centsa stick for Mr. G. G. Thompson and F. A. Wardwell. He graduated from thePembina High School in June 1923.

In 1924, Martin worked for Victoria Elevator Co. at Pembina. At that time, every load of grain was hauled by wagon and horses. Thewagon was raised for unloading by a hand crank operating lifting device. The grain buying business was quite interesting but unloading of grainwas dirty so Martin quit working after a year because he couldn't standthe dust.

Later on, he worked for E. D. Booker who had an implementand hardware store. Martin took over the machinery end of the business. He ordered the machines, set them up and serviced them. He said that wasa great job because he got to drive a Model "T" Ford truck witha chain drive and hard rubber tires, that was really something in thosedays.

Martin worked on and off for E. D. Booker from 1924 until1927. He took time off from his job in 1925 to go to the University ofNorth Dakota for one year. He took up engineering.

In 1927 and 1928, Martin attended the State School of Scienceat Wahpeton, North Dakota and graduated from his plumbing class in 1928.

After graduating from high school, with his one year ofengineering and two years of plumbing, he was anxious to go out into theworld and make his fortune. In the summer of 1928, Martin and a buddy hitout for South Dakota and went west to Wyoming and Idaho to get rich. Theyleft in good spirits and with high hopes but after much traveling and knockingaround the two weary travelers returned home because good jobs weren't tobe found.

Martin figured Pembina was as good a place as any to setup a business, so he set up shop in 1928 in the same building he is stilloperating today. Business wasn't good for the first couple of years soto help with his income, Martin went to Saskatchewan, Canada, to help withthe harvest for two falls. He had no trouble finding a job because extramen were hard to get . He received seven dollars a day which almost providedhim with a fortune in those days. He said he earned every penny of it though. They threshed from before daylight in the morning until after dark at night. When darkness fell, they threshed by the light of burning straw piles. Since winter comes early in the north, they often hauled bundles by sleigh. Martin got pretty cold at times but he says he enjoyed every minute ofit, for in those days he was rough and tough and young.

In the spring of 1929, Martin put in his first completeplumbing job. He installed it for R. C. Stinson who was the druggist inPembina then. From then until this present day, his business steadily increaseduntil now he is just swamped with orders. It was remarkable how he builthis business up during the depression, when many of the businessmen wentbroke and some had to even quit altogether.

In 1938, Martin purchased the old skating rink and starteda Plumbing and Sheet Metal Shop. After a lot of coaxing, he talked J. A."Spike" Munro into moving his equipment from his blacksmith shopin St. Vincent, Minnesota into Martin's new shop in Pembina. It was thenknown as Maier and Munro. They repaired anything and everything that neededfixing.

Also, in 1932, Martin constructed Pembina's first filtrationplant. He made it out of three barrels stacked one upon another. Thiswas then filled with charcoal, limestone, and washed sand. Chlorine wasadded by hand. This barrel tank was hooked up to a pressure system thatdrew water out of the Pembina River and pumped it through these filtersto take out the impurities. They could filter about 250 gallons of wateran hour.. This system was set up in the back room of the city hall anda pipe was run through the wall into the main room of the city hall. Thepeople came to the city hall and filled their pails, cream cans, and othercontainers, from the tap that was on the wall. From that time on, Pembina'swater system improved and expanded until the present day. In 1936, a filtrationplant was built next to the city hall. A large tank was installed to storefiltrated water in. It was - feet long by - in diameter. In 1948, a watertower was built to take care of the growing city. By 1969, Pembina hadgrown so much new large modern filtration plants were built. It was completedin 1970. Over the years, Martin piped the water lines throughout the city. He also services these water lines besides the sewer to this day.

On January 12, 1937, Martin married Mary Lou Trudel. Tothis union, five children were born: Leonard, Richard, Judy, Tim, and Shirley.

Martin did much more for the city of Pembina besides buildingup the water system. He served on the city council for eighteen years whenthe city had no money. They had a hard time keeping things going, but withthe co-operation of the council under Mayor A. J. Christopher, they didwhat they could and the city expanded.

In 1941 and 1942, Martin installed free canning centersthroughout North Dakota. The Federal Government paid for these centersand they were set up to teach the people how to can vegetables and meatfor home consumption. It saved the people of North Dakota a lot of moneyto be able to can their own food. Martin says he'll never forget the timehe installed one of these canning centers at Harvey, North Dakota. He hadtested the steam cooker and told the instructor, who was a Home Economicsteacher from the school at Fargo, that everything was all set to go. Martinwent into the boiler room and was talking to the janitor when someone cameand told him the instructor had suddenly taken sick and that he would haveto instruct the fifty women that were waiting there. Martin said his lipsmoved but he didn't make a sound like he was scared. After he got overhis nervousness, he did pretty well and rather enjoyed it.

A few more interesting things happened to Martin whileon the job, he probably didn't tell me the best ones but here are a fewpretty good ones. One time he and his helpers were unplugging a sewer atthe U.S. Custom House. They worked and worked away until they finally hitthe stoppage with their rod. His helper, Charles "Snakes" Bouvettefished the stoppage out. It was two bottles of liquor. He held them upto the onlookers and said, "Bottled and Bonded in a sewer." Hegot a real laugh from the crowd.

Martin takes his job as a matter that has to be done butlike he says there are very many clean jobs but some are really bad. Onetime he told my dad that one his customers needed oil and that maybe he'dgo in and start the stove for her as Martin was in the middle of anotherjob down the street. Well, Martin said he just got back to work, when herecomes my dad as white as a ghost and said, "Martin, you'll have tolight that stove for her. I'm sick to my stomach, and have to go home. What did you ever send me in there for. When I laid down to light thatstove, direct and cat hair fell in my face and I got some in my mouth." The reason was the lady of the house had a considerable amount of catsand there was cat hair on everything and the floor. Martin said he feltsorry for my dad but he just couldn't help but laugh. Martin went in andlit her stove.

All work and no play wasn't Martin's theme either. Hewas very active in sports but he enjoyed hunting and fishing the most, inand out of season. He really enjoys hunting and fishing in the good olddays when there was an abundance of game and fish. He says it was a beautifulsight to see thousands of wild fowl flying overhead. It was especiallya joy to a hunter when black powder was cheap and shot gun shells were 50cents a box. He has fished from north of the 54th parallel to the Des MoinesRiver and west to the Pacific Ocean.

Being the great sportsman he is, Martin has always hada dog by his side. He has had a dog of his own since he was a small boy. In the past 45 years, he has had a famous "Chesapeake Breed"which are the best duck and goose dog, because they are strong and goodswimmers. They are very gentle and good with children but he says, "Don'tforget they are a man's dog."

Hello Martin, something is wrong with one of the waterlines and we need your help.


Maier, Martin, Pembina, ND, Interviewed, January 24, 1974



Maier, Martin, Pembina, ND, Interviewed, January 24, 1974