Michael Rustad's Memories

A Return Home:

Red River Valley Memories

This summer my 15 year old daughter Erica and I visitedthe Upper Midwest and the Red River Valley. We attended my sister Jamie'soldest daughter's wedding in Wadena, Minnesota and visited with friendsand family.

My daughter and I spent one afternoon with our neighborAlfred Loer and his wife, Clara. Alfred and Clara are now in their eighthdecade but still have the vitality that I remember as a child. Clara treatedus to cold drinks and to an excellent vegetable plate with crab apple picklesand dill pickles from her garden. Alfred and Clara Loer were the best neighborsimaginable. I told Alfred that I often pictured him cleaning up in hisoveralls after a day in the fields and sitting down with us for a meal.

Diane and Carolyn Loer were members of the LARK club alongwith my brother Tony and I. LARK was short for Loer and Rustad Klub! Alfred reminded us that our only good deed was to save our money for a presentfor his niece Alice Loer who broke her neck in a car accident. We visitedAlice and gave her a present. The LARK club frequently met for social eventson Loer's farm. I opened the door to our little club house and was pleasedto see that it had changed very little in three decades. Diane and Carolynwere dear childhood friends and Clara told Erica and me to take a look upstairswhere we played and had our hiding place.

Alfred and Clara Loer are now elderly but keep a beautifulfarmstead. They have statutory of loons, the state bird of Minnesota, intheir front yard. Alfred invited us to take a look at the farm and I showedmy dear daughter Erica the barn which we played in for so many hours asa child. Alfred no longer has a hay loft which was where we played withkittens as a child. The barn and the buildings are remarkably well preserved. The farm house of the Loers has been remodeled.

The time seemed to go so quickly that it now seems likedreamlike. My sister Janine, Jim, Erica, Jill, and Jackie spent a remarkableday revisiting our childhood home and the Humboldt and St. Vincent schools. Our farm house is now quite overgrown with cockle burrs and the appletree is dead. However, the house and buildings are still in quite goodcondition.

Our stock pond is now filled in and the barn demolished. We took a picture of the shed on which my Dad drew a happy picture ofRustee and a sad picture of Pat who was never fond of farming. The lilacsare now grown back. During our tenure at the farm,. my mother had the lilacscut because of her allergies. It was good to see that the lilacs were strongerthan ever.

My sister Jamie and I spent a wonderful day in Thief RiverFalls. Jamie's daughter is a student at Northland Junior College and wevisited the attractive little campus. We enjoyed breakfast in a Thief RiverFalls restaurant. I very much enjoyed spending the rest of the day at theKittson County History Center and Museum. In my opinion, the Lake BronsonMuseum is one of the truly great American museums. I am by nature a collectorand an amateur historian who has visited the Smithstonian and many of theworld's greatest museums. In my humble opinion, the Kittson County HistoryCenter & Museum fulfilled my greatest expectations. Cindy Adams isso knowledgeable and genuinely interested in Kittson County. I could havespent 3 or 4 days at the Museum and never been bored. There is, for example,copies of St. Vincent High School annuals or year books. I was fascinatedto study the 1928 St. Vincent annual in which Jim Bernath was the centerof the basketball team. St. Vincent had a hockey team as well as basketballand football teams. St. Vincent played teams such as Neche, Stephen, and Cavalier. They would take the train to games.

My sister Jamie and I were enthralled by the many exhibitswhich captured the ethos of early Kittson County history. I was fascinatedto see uniforms from Kittson County teams. There is even a Humboldt HighSchool basketball uniform as well as a baseball uniform worn during thetime my beloved father played. I was fascinated by Scott Matthew's baseballscrapbook. Scott Matthew was one of the best athletes in Kittson Countyhistory and his scrapbooks document his prowess on the mound. Scott wasa versatile player who raised a large and successful family. Cindy Adamshas a treasure trove of scrapbooks and other materials to augment her excellentcollection.

Hallock is a town which has a continued vitality. Thereseems to be a lot of civil pride in Hallock and Lancaster which appear tobe flourishing. Both towns have a variety of businesses. Humboldt, onthe other hand, is a mere shell of the town that I remember. There arepockets of vitality. Curt and Dale Miller have a park-like home. I stoppedby Curt and Dale Miller's home. I wanted to shake Dale's hand as she wasthe first teacher that inspired him. On the day that we visited Humboldt,P.N. Tri's home was being demolished. A number of Humboldt homes have falleninto disrepair. Scott Matthew's parents home is now abandoned and over-riddenwith weeds. A large number of other homes are in similar condition. Mygrandparent's home is lovely. There is no restaurant or store in town. The new Post Office is still flourishing as is the gas station.

My sister and I received permission to visit the formerHumboldt-St. Vincent high school. The high school is divided into the oldbuilding built in 1906 and the addition built in 1957. My Dad was one ofthe workers on the roof. The high school closed in the early 1990s andfell into a terrible state. The occupants of the high school did not takecare of the building and it was basically ruined with no heat or repairs. The pipes burst and the music room was still under water as was the furnaceroom that was always kept in such good condition by Andy Hoglin and laterby my cousin, Dan Turner. I shot baskets last in the high school with myson James in 1985. During this visit, it was impossible to play in thegymnasium as there was no electricity or other amenities. We visited eachroom and reminisced about our experiences. The new addition had some roomswhich were still in quite good condition. The shop area was in the bestcondition and could still be adapated for business purposes. We visitedMartha Roberts' speech room and revisited the center of Humboldt's speechand debate dynasty from the 1960s. The old Assembly Room was sub-dividedin later years and different than I remember.

The science room was still very much as I remember. Muchof the woodwork was still intact despite the best efforts of vandals todesecrate this room. There was nothing of value in any of the rooms butmy sister and I were deeply moved by the experience of revisiting our school. We visited the Superintendent's Office and could still imagine Donna Clowcomforting or counseling students in that office. It took imagination torevisit the building since it was in decay. I found the bathroom in Ms.Evers' room. I enjoyed visited Mrs. Hylland's room. The cafeteria wasstill not entirely in disrepair and I could imagine lines of school childrenready to taste a good meal from Ann Hughes, Pearl Iten or Hazel Lofberg.

The gymnasium floor and bleachers were still in relativelygood condition. It was depressing to see the music room where we practicedfor hours in the early 1960s. I don't believe that I'll ever see the Humboldt-St.Vincent school again but I was pleased to have the chance to see it stillstanding. A good number of successful citizens of this country receivedtheir education in the Humboldt-St. Vincent school. A good number of successful citizens of this country receivedtheir education in the Humboldt-St. Vincent school.