Michael Rustad's Memories

Humboldt Family Get Togethers at Lake BronsonState Park

Lake Bronson is a man-made lake outside of Bronson whichwas renamed "Lake Bronson." There were no lakes or swimmingholes around Humboldt at all unless you count that slough we called LakeStella in St. Vincent.

Hallock had an excellent swimming hole carved out of theTwo Rivers which was always crowded. However, during the late 1950s andearly 1960s, the residents of Humboldt rated Lake Bronson as their favoriteswimming hole and a place for for informal picnics on many Sunday afternoons. Lake Bronson was a Civilian Conservation project from the 1930s and wasa nicely laid out state park. The water level in the lake was regulatedby a dam and was deep and cold down deep.
During the late 1950s, a sticker for unlimited access to Lake Bronson was$3 and a daily pass was only a half dollar. The weekends were frequentlywall to wall people because the Canadians soon discovered Lake Bronson tobe a recreational bargain. I can still remember all of those yellow Manitobaplates The Humboldt families would pack their broods into their stationwagons and head for Lake Bronson. Each of the families brought shared dishessuch as fresh rolls, potato salad, garden salad, fried chicken as well asplenty of homemade bars. I do not recall that beer was ever consumed bythe adults. Instead, ice-cold kool-aide and lemon aide in thermos jugswas the drink of choice.

I remember that the Humboldt families would park theirwagons together almost like a wagon train and then spread out the picnic. After a day of swimming at Lake Bronson, the children were ravenous! TheBaldwins, Stewarts, Giffens, Ashes, Lofbergs, Hunts, and Boatz familiesheld these joint affairs.

The Humboldt men would frequently listen to a MinnesotaTwins baseball game generally broadcast by Halsey Hall and his broadcastingpartner, Ray Scott. The Twins were a strong team by the mid-1960s withplayers such as Harmon Killebrew, Zoilo Versailles, Rod Carew, Bob Allisonand catcher, Earl Battey. The pitching staff had an ace in Cam Pascual. The baseball games broadcast on a car radio or cheap transistor radio wereour entertainment. Sometimes the men would just sleep because they wereso exhausted from a week on the farm. On occasion, you would see a cardgame.

As teenagers, we would change the station to a Winnipegradio station and listen to the Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, the Beatles,or Paul Revere and the Raiders. As we grew older, we would meet kids fromother towns on those lazy Sunday afternoons. We would sometimes play gamesin the beautiful tower which resembled a medieval castle's tower. We enjoyedthe freedom from adult supervision and the greater restraint our parentsshowed for public displays of displeasure while they were chatting withtheir friends.

It always seemed like such a long drive to Lake Bronsonthough it was only 35 miles or so. The beach at Bronson was very cleanthough the dog days of August brought a considerable amount of weeds andbugs to the Lake. I remember the joy seeing the first glimpse of the skyblue waters as we drove to the park entrance. The swimming area was supervisedby a life-guard who had absolute authority to corral the high spirits ofthe many kids at Bronson. I don't believe that anyone ever drowned in theLake which was a minor miracle given how many kids were swimming and howhigh-spirited the fun! The supervision from most parents was not very thorough. On occasion, there would be pushing and shoving on the dock which was stoppedby a strident blow of the life guard's whistle. Sheldon Carlson was oneof the earliest life-guards that I can remember and no one questioned hisauthority, not even the toughest Bronson or Lancaster kid.

My Mother was an exception to the rule that kids shouldswim without an adult present. She watched us like a hawk or worried endlesslythat we would end up the victim of a drowning accident. I think that myown parenting was shaped by her vigilance. Many of the Humboldt parentslet the older kids take care of the younger kids. This was certainly therule of the many families with more than five children: Hunts, Baldwins,Boatzes, Giffens, Clows etc. I do not recall anyone doing any fishing atBronson at least from the Humboldt crowd. I thought that those seeminglyendless picnics at Lake Bronson were a permanent main-stay in Kittson County. However, as many of kids left the County and grew up, the picnics gaveway to other activities on Sunday afternoons.

Another memory I have of Lake Bronson State Park is thebeautiful camping area that they built in the early 1960s. My family wouldfrequently spend a week or two camping. In later years, we had a trailorand the boys slept in the car. We would sometimes sneak out of the carand meet up with other kids who were camping in the area. I met the girlof my dreams when I was 15 camping at Bronson on the dock. I remember hidingmy feet in the water because I had a crooked toe. I used every impression-managementtechnique to convey the impression that I was cool and not a nerd Sheagreed to meet me in the camping area and that we would go for a swim laterthat evening.. As I was walking with her from our camp site, my Motherasked me whether I showered and if not to be sure to change my underwear. I can still remember the mortificaiton when my Mother cried out: "Don'tforget to change your underwear!" I have always honored my Mother'srequest and change them daily to this day.

The best thing about Lake Bronson's camping area was thevery modern toilets and showers. I have written previously of what a pleasureit was to have unlimited access to water for showers! I have also mentionedat length swimming lessons at Lake Bronson in a previous essay when Humboldt'steam took first place at an all-county meet. My specialty was the deadman's float with the kick and the paddle and I still have a blue ribbonto prove my early swimming prowess. A lot of the men had what we called"farmer's tans." They would be deeply bronzed from farm work onthe neck and arms and pale as a mackerel in the moonlight on the rest oftheir bodies. We would alway make fun of the ghostly white bodies thatpropagated the beach. These were the days before low-fat diets and KittsonCounty was not well known for the super-model look. As I look back at thoseyears, I think it was preferable that we were not such a "body cult"and enjoyed our high fat diet.

How I envied the kids who lived near Lake Bronson. Ithought that the food served at the Lake Bronson State Park was marvelousand so nutritious: sugar daddys, Seven-up bars, popcicles, and frozenice cream sandwiches. I have no idea why these snacks were so deliciousconsumed on the beach. I also remember that the boys dressing room couldbecome quite a nasty place especially on a crowded Sunday. The smell ofurine and worse permeated the stank little building. I think that the reasonpeople confused the shower with a toilet was never clear to me. I triedto dress as quickly as possible holding my nose.

As teenagers, my brother and I would sometimes take ourmotorcycles out to Lake Bronson at night for a swim or a drive on the beach. Yes, my brother Tony tried to drive his motorcycle on the beach beforecapsizing. I was a cautious soul even as a teenager and did everythingin moderation My brother was never risk-aversive and would love to drivehis motorcycle at high speed or ski backwards or try almost any ultra-hazardousactivity.

Another memory I have is of Harry Hanson our dentist givingus rides on his power boat at Lake Bronson. Harry Hanson was quite a remarkablygood dentist and had firm rules for his children. There could be no popor candy of any kind. We were very glad not to have such rigid rules. Yearslater, I wish I had obeyed Harry Hanson's admonition to avoid sweets! glad not to have such rigid rules. Yearslater, I wish I had obeyed Harry Hanson's admonition to avoid sweets!