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Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks, North Dakota

Retired baker says bread not like it usedto be

by Darrel Koehler

After years of baking breads, rolls, doughnuts, cookies,pastries, Leo Carrigan, 77, former Hallock, Minnesota baker who now livesin retirement at 403 N. Sixth St., seldom buys any for his own table.

"The bakery products just aren't the same today Theyare using additives and preservatives. Only one grocery store in town carriesa bread like we used to bake. I just don't buy much any more," he said.

Carrigan said when he operated the Hallock bakery from1937 to 1952, the additives and preservatives hadn't come on the marketyet. The products had to be good and fresh or the customer wouldn't buythem.

"When you open one of those plastic bags of breadnow you don't smell the odor of freshly baked bread. It just smells of chemicalsused to extend its shelf life. It is really sad," he said.

Carrigan got into the baking trade back in the 1920s aftera stint as a farm laborer.

The son of Irish immigrant parents, he was born at Ayrshire,Iowa, in 1898. His parents, who rented land in Iowa, later moved to a smallfarm at Pipestone, Minnesota. Carrigan got a job on a farm there and waspaid the salary of $90 per month in 1920.

However, a depression hit agriculture and his salary wasslashed to $50 the next year followed by a cut to $35 in 1922. He quit.

The Pipestone bakery needed help and he started with thefirm that year at the wage of $40 per month which included a 14 hour day.

After a try at bakery ownership in Mobridge, S.D., anda later job with a Bismarck bakery, Carrigan heard the Hallock Bakery wasfor sale and in 1937 he hitchhiked to the northwestern Minnesota community.He had trouble making the down payment, and the equipment was in poor condition,but with a little help from the local bank he was ready for business.

The bakery proved successful. Within a couple of yearshe was transporting baked goods to 17 Minnesota communities. He had fourmen in the shop who were aided by four women who did the wrapping. Carrigandrove a delivery truck and helped with the baking.

"I think we made a go of it with our sweet baked goods.Hallock is a Scandinavian community and they are really fond of sweet goodslike rolls. We just couldn't bake enough sweet rolls, cookies and pastries,"he said.

Doughnuts and cinnamon rolls sold for 25 cents a dozenand a one pound loaf of sliced bread could be bought for ten to 15 cents.

Up to 200 pounds of flour could be mixed with other ingredientsin the huge bread mixer. The largest batch of cake batter ever turned outcontained enough for 120 dozen cupcakes or 100 double layer cakes. The recipecalled for 30 pounds of sugar alone.

Carrigan said he always used good ingredients and he alwaysput a good measure of cinnamon in cinnamon rolls or raisins in raisin bread.

"I sometimes would get some razzing about not enoughjelly in the bismarcks. We used a pump to insert the jelly after the bismarckwas fried," he said.

The bakery was a family operation with his wife keepingthe books and waiting on customers. His five children, Patricia, Virginia,James, Norman and Michael, Jr., helped with customers and did other chores.

Besides the regular baked goods, Carrigan would sometimesturn out a decorated three layer wedding or birthday cake for $5.

The bakery ovens were used for preparing roast turkeysand hams for various suppers in Hallock. For the hams, Carrigan would carefullywrap them with rye bread dough. After the ham was baked, the toughened doughwould be stripped away leaving only the succulent ham.

"One nice thing about working those long hours, Iwas always able to have hot, fresh rolls for breakfast. The worst problem,however,was your feet. You were on them so long each day. And then therewas that dust from the flour. It did give me asthma," he said.

Due to ill health, Carrigan sold the Hallock Bakery in1952 and his sweet rolls and "Golden Krust" bread have since becomeonly a memory to older residents.

Submitted by Jamie Rustad Meagher