. SAMPSON JOHAN BERGE
John Sampson Larson
23rd of November 1898 to 8th of August 1984.
By John R. Larson
This is a picture of my dad, John S Larson.
Martha lived from May 26, 1860 to July 31, 1927. Lars Knutson Berge lived from January 7, 1855 to November 23, 1943.
John was the second child with the name of Sampson Johan Berge born to Martha and Lars. The first child of that name lived only one month the year before.
Martha became ill after John was born and was taken to the sanitarium near Chippewa Falls. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larson decided to take care of John. They had a daughter, Enger, but no son. Enger wasn't too happy with her new brother at first. Enger had to take long walks to get milk from a special cow. There was no formal adoption. I remember when my dad signed for Social Security. He had to have Enger sign some papers for proof of his birth date. The Larsons spoke Norwegian and this was my dad's first language. He also learned to read and write Norwegian. When he went to school he learned English.
said there were quite a few in his class at the start, but
they kept dropping out. There was no cure for a lot of things
days. One day he saw the parents of one of his former
and he asked them what happened to him. They said he had
and died. When you got sick you would have the
That would cover most everything.
John learned how to trap animals and skin and prepare the hides. He had a trap line on the way to school and another one on the way home. The one on the way home was some distance down the railroad. When he got out of school there was a long freight train parked on the tracks. He would walk over by it and find a car he could climb up on. It was slow getting started and when he got to the spot where his trap line started he would jump off. One day he did this but he didn't notice that the train was quite short. When it started up it gained speed very fast. When he jumped off he hit the ground hard and rolled down the bank. It was a painful experience.
He made good money with this trap line. He sold the pelts to Sears Roebuck. He got $20 for a large beaver pelt. That was a lot of money in those days. He bought a 20 gauge single shot Iver Johnson shot gun for $12. I still have it.
He had some sayings he would repeat that described the broken English used in those days. One is when the neighbor lost his cow and came banging on his door. He opened his door and the neighbor said,"John! John! You see my black white spot cow? I looka here, I looka there, me s_ _t no can find." Another one was "That was a gout one." He said that when something went well. One day he got around to explain what that was all about. He said that the Larson's had no bull and one day it was his job to take a cow over to the neighbors for breeding. When they put the cow in with the bull, the whole family came out to see the proceedings. When it was over, the lady of the house said;"That was a gout one." He said that it was very embarrassing, but not the most embarrassing.
One day he had a job of taking a load of manure out to the field. It had rained during the night and the manure had turned to thick slurry. He hitched the horses to the wagon and put a board on the front of the wagon to sit on. He was out in the field and was traveling along the road into town. One of the neighbor ladies with her daughter were walking along the road dressed in white dresses. When they came along side, my dad waved and yelled "Hi"! The horses thought it was a command for more speed and jolted forward. Dad was knocked backwards into the slurry. He said he had to roll over and swim in the stuff to get out. I asked him if he saw the neighbor and his daughter again. He said they never mentioned anything about it.
One day my Dad wanted to go fishing, so he dug some worms and put them in a glass jar. Something came up and he couldn't go. He put the cover on the jar and put it on the fence post. Then he forgot all about it. About a week later the sun was shinning and he heard a loud, BOOM! There was a terrific odor. Then he remembered the worms.
The minister in the Lutheran Church in those days had to run down the Catholic's or he would be replaced. So why did my Dad marry a French Catholic? He said that there was too much intermarriage between the Norwegians and he wanted to find out if the Catholics were as bad as they said they were.
He had some good jobs before he was married. His foster sister got married to a cousin Sievert Thompson. They moved to Duluth, Minnesota. My Dad went there and got a job working for Minnesota Power and Light. He told me about the fellow workers that got electrocuted up on the poles. They didn't have the safety measures they have now. My dad stayed on the ground and put tools and parts on a line that they would pull up to the linemen. Then he got a job with the Duluth fire department. He learned how to climb ladders and jump into nets. He was there when the big Cloquette forest fire went though. There was nothing they could do to stop it. It just hit the North end of Duluth. He helped rescue the children in the orphanage in Woodland. The fire didn't stop till it hit Lake Superior.
Then disaster hit the Larson Farm in Glen Flora. The barn burnt down. His foster father asked him to come home and help him. He knew if he quit the job he couldn't get it back again, and he didn't.
he returned to Glen Flora, It was the first time my mother
saw him. They were living on a farm near there and they would
this tall fellow on a bicycle go riding by in the evening.
met at a dance and must have kept in touch with each other because my
family moved near Coleman, Wisconsin.
My dad never got along with my mother's father. When my mother and Dad got married in Coleman, prohibition was in force and my mother's father Tuff Truckey, was too busy mixing up another batch of moonshine to go to the wedding.
My dad told me a story. He was in Lena getting his car repaired. While he was waiting Tuff Truckey came into town and stopped in Mc Guires Tavern. Everyone in Lena went to the tavern, including the fellow that was working on my dad's car. Grandpa Truckey would pay for his bar bill with the bottles of moonshine he brought in. Then he would proceed to buy every one in the tavern a drink. When he left, he had another bill and lots of friends.
My Parents experienced a shivaree on their wedding night. As they were settling down for the night they heard a loud racket out side their door. The neighbors were banging on pots and pans. When my dad came to the door, they said he had to buy a keg of near beer for them before they would stop. They must have been a hardy group drinking cold 3% beer on the 10th of January at night in Wisconsin.
Dad wanted to have a cabin in the woods so he could trap;
fish and hunt, but my mother didn't go for it.
Here is a clipping from Scott Paper.
My parents got a job working for a man named Decker. He was a one-man contractor building a road for the town. My mother took care of the household chores and my dad helped build the road. Decker had some bees and they knew they were going to swarm. Decker told my mother if they did to go out and bang on a pan with a spoon. One day they did swarm and my mother banged on a pan. Then some thing unexpected happened. The bees started to settle on her. She had to stop banging and remain very still. When the fellows got there she was covered with bees. They got the smoker going and had my mother walk slowly over to a fence post. They managed to smoke the bees over on the post. My mother never got stung but my dad did. He became very ill. He was allergic to them. He recovered and raised bees in both Duluth and in Stiles. I liked building boxes and frames for him.
Next he had a job-selling nursery stock for Mckay Nursery. His territory was around Lena, Illinois. He thought he could get around better if he had a motorcycle. The motorcycle worked fine until it rained. The roads were red clay and it built up on the tires like a snowball. Then they wouldn't turn any more.
Then it was time to go back to Duluth for my parents. My dad found a job helping another fellow take care of lawns in the summer and fixing fires in the winter. My mother found a job working for the family of the owner of the Duluth News Tribune. They practiced the Christian Science Religion.
Then Mr. Bagley employed my dad. He owned the Bagley Jewelry Co. My dad drove Mr. Bagley in a new Packard and also took care of the yard and Furnace, and did delivery work for the jewelry co. His pay was $100.00 a month.
They bought a lot East of the Thompson's house on Saint Marie Street. Then they moved a milk house from a large dairy that was closing and placed it on their lot.
I arrived on the scene January 24 1929. It was a difficult delivery at Saint Mary's Hospital. There also was a terrible snowstorm that night. My dad said there was very little snow before that. When he woke up in the morning he could hardly open the door. His model T coupe was nothing but a mound. He had to ski to work. When my great aunt Celia, a very large lady, carried me to the house, my dad had to widen the path the path because she was getting stuck in it.
was a bad year for a lot of folks. But my dad kept
his job. In 1933 the banks were going broke, but my folks had
in a Federal Reserve Bank and didn't loose it.
My dad was always learning new things and he took a course in taxidermy. He mounted fish, ducks, deer and a small alligator.
In the spring of 1934 my mother told my dad we had to have a new house. My mother drew up the plans with the help of a neighbor Mr. Tobison. He was an excellent carpenter and made out the lumber list. There were only four houses built in Duluth that year. The news traveled fast that we were building a house and out of work fellows were coming to our door. My mother picked the fellow with the most children to dig the basement. We moved into a tent on the front lawn and that was our home for the summer. It was a good year to build a house. They got a bid for the plumbing that was unbelievable. The whole job with Crane fixtures was $80.00.The thing that I remember about that summer was going to St. Mary's Hospital and having my tonsils removed. I was in the same room with a boy that was shot through the stomach with a 22-caliber rifle and was dying a slow and painful death. What a lasting impression that made on me.
The house was wonderful, especially the bathtub and flush toilet. The first winter we found out it is not a good idea to have a garage in the basement. When my dad came home and drove the 1928 Chevy coup in the garage it froze the house out. Another thing they used was some new insulated plasterboard. They ran out of money and couldn't get it all plastered. My parent's bedroom was not plastered and my mother was allergic to it. The answer to that was to borrow some money and get the house finished.
My mother wanted to send me to a Catholic school but they wouldn't take me till I was 6. So I went to a public school for a year. I had a half a year of kindergarten and a half-year of first grade. It was a mile walk across a field to get to the school. One time after a snowstorm I tried to walk around the field. When I was on Woodland Ave. I was almost killed by a protruding box on an oil truck. I crawled up the snow bank as fast as I could and when the truck came I pressed my body into the snow bank and closed my eyes. I felt the whoosh of air go buy and my dad was right behind in the Bagely's Packard. From my dad's point of view he didn't think I could have made it. My dad stopped and opened the front door and I got my first ride in a Packard. I thought I had died and went to heaven. After that I skied to school. My mother used my dad's skies and made a trail for me.
My dad went fishing, hunting and trapping every chance he got. One day he came home and said he had found quite a large family way out in the woods that were living off the land. That week the Bagley's daughter's family had a coat that their daughter had outgrown and were going to give to Goodwill. My dad mentioned the family he had found and thought the coat would be about the right size for one of the girls. So that weekend we took a ride into the country with the coat. We had to walk a long ways back in the woods to find the log home. The coat was the right size for one of the girls, Ines, and she was very happy to have a warm coat. The kids had no toys but a lot of imagination and I had a lot of fun playing with them in their forest playground. Ines was a few years older than I was but we got along great. I got a lot of kidding from my parents about my new girl friend.
The next week we went back. We brought jugs of water, flour and salt. My mother also brought a camera. When we arrived we saw the older daughter coming from the creek which was some distance away, carrying a rifle and a pail of water. They were glad to get our jugs of water because that meant they didn't have to boil it to drink it. They were digging a well by hand and warned me not to fall in it. The mother said that Ines had worn the coat all day and slept in it at night.
This was the last we ever saw of the family. My dad went by a few weeks later and said the cabin was empty and the well was filled in.
We also visited a large family near Spring Lake. The last time we saw them they had bought an old hearse and painted it green. They said they were going to pack the family in it and move to the West Coast.
Going to Holy Rosary School was a new experience. Dominican nuns were the teachers. It was almost twice as far to walk. Sister Roberta told us we were going to hell if we didn't go to church on Sunday so I told my parents. My mother came with me but my dad would go on to fix the furnace at the Bagley home. After they put the oil burner in he came to church with us.
My dad taught me how to hunt and fish, but what I was most interested in was driving the car. At the age of ten I was doing the shifting and at eleven I could drive and was teaching other friends. At the age of twelve I filled out a card and sent it in with a quarter and got my driving license.
In 1941 when I started 7th grade, I told my parents they needed a janitor at the school. My dad looked in to it and the pay was double what he was getting from Bagleys. My dad took the job and I helped him. I remember the first day on the job. I got the job to sweep the third floor hall and three classrooms. I put lots of sweeping compound down and the grime came off so you could see the floor again. My dad paid me a dollar a week. I had my first paying job.
I remember when my dad's sister and brothers left for the West Coast. It was in the winter at night and my dad let them in the garage in the basement. I went down and stood on the basement steps. They came though the door from the garage and were in long coats and fur hats. My mother and dad said their good byes to them, and they stayed only a short time. After they left my dad said. "I hope the Chevy makes it to the West Coast. It must have been quite a trip.
I remember when Grandpa Berge died, November of 1943. My parents thought that I should stay home and go to school. I stayed with the Carlson family a few doors down the road. They had a boy and a girl that I grew up with. Mr. Carlson was a WW1 veteran and had a good job. Mrs. Carlson made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my lunch. I thought they were wonderful.
My dad had a book that he would study for taking tests for civil service jobs. He made a cover for it out of deer hide that he had tanned himself. On the cover he had printed Knowledge is Power. He would pass the test with a good grade but would never get the job because he wasn't a veteran. My dad was too young for World War 1, and I was too young for World War 2.
Here is a story that goes back to my younger days. My dad had to make a trip to Superior and said I could come along in the 28 Chevy. I had never been there before. When we came to the bridge over the bay it was a wooden railroad bridge that was fitted with a plank road for cars added to both sides. He had to stop at a tollbooth and pay some money. There was a group of fellows in overalls watching us when we stopped. I asked my dad why we had to pay money and what did those fellows do? He said the bridge was owned by the railroad and the fellows kept repairing it. It didn't look very safe. When we got near the middle we could see black smoke and steam up a head. It was a freight train coming fast. The bridge started shaking and dad was turning the steering wheel back and forth fast to keep the car on the shaking boards. I was never so scared in all my life! I looked at my dad and he had a determined look on his face. I was very happy to get on solid ground again. We rode around Superior and dad couldn't find what he was looking for. He told me they had no cemeteries in Superior so they had no place to bury the dead; they let them walk around. When I saw some one walking on the sidewalk I was trying to figure out if they were living or dead. Then it was time to go back on that bridge. There was no train this time but I didn't feel safe. I developed a new phobia for bridges after that trip and it took a long time to get over it.
The Holy Rosary School and church job proved to be a lot of work. Lawn mowing and trimming bushes in the summer. Winter there was snow shoveling, coal shoveling, sweeping and cleaning, 10-12 hours a week were normal and it was seven days a week. My dad fixed things that I had never seen fixed before. He got the clocks and fire bells working. The school had fire bells all over but no one had ever heard them. For fire drills one of the nuns would ring a bell in the stairway. You could hardly hear it.
One day the city fire chief came over for a fire drill. Dad told me he had the fire bell working but I didn't believe him. We were all in our classrooms and we heard the bells in the hallways start up. Gong-Gong-Gong- Gong, then a break and then they would do it again. They were deafening. The school was emptied in 45 seconds. The fire chief said it was a record breaker for the city. We got outside and kept going. Some of the classes didn't stop till they were 1/4 mile away. The nuns had a hard time getting the kids back in the school.
I had all kinds of jobs. One was to put up the flag. The flagpole was way out on the front lawn. One day the wind was blowing and it was very cold. I did it as fast as I could. My dad said they were getting telephone calls wondering what was wrong because the flag was flying up side down.
The winters were hard in Duluth and it seemed we would have a snowstorm every Saturday night. We would have to get up early and shovel the walks for church. For the 7 am mass we would have a path opened. By 11 am we would have the walks shoveled. There were lots of stairs and no snow blowers in those days. There were lots of people going to church because WW11 was on and every one was doing lots of praying.
One Christmas someone made a large star from wood and light bulbs. They wanted it put up on the church roof. My dad didn't think it was a good idea because it took too much electricity but he plugged it in anyway. During Christmas Eve mass it started to rain. I was sitting with my mother and dad and the church was full. In the middle of mass all the lights went off. They always had some candles lit on the altar when they say mass and this is all the light they had. I heard my dad leave and go out the door. He went up to the roof and unplugged the star, then went down in to basement and put in a new fuse and the lights came on. It didn't take him very long. He saved the day.
The first summer dad sanded and refinished all the school room floors. It was the first time since the school had been built. I would help him push the desks on runners out into the hall and back in when he was finished. When he came to the lunchroom the floor was black. I helped him swab the floor down with soapy water and then tried to run the scrubbing machine. The floor was so slippery I couldn't stand up.
We had a neighbor behind our house on Gold Street. Mr. Hoym's wife had died and he lived with his daughter Ester. Mr. Hoym and my dad were good friends but very competitive. My dad would tell an outlandish story and Mr. Hoym would always top it.
They would play checkers and Mr. Hoym would give my dad three or four checkers in a row. Then he would bounce around the board and finish my dad off in one move. They also played horseshoes by our house. My dad could hold his own in horseshoes.
Mr. Hoym bought a 16-ft. Larson boat and trailer. My dad bought a Lawson outboard and two big fishing reels with copper line. He made his own poles and other fishing plugs and gear. He must have signed some papers saying they were commercial fishermen because he got a coupon book for gas for the motor. They would go out on Lake Superior and fish for lake trout.
I could tell all kinds of stories about the experiences we had on the lake. Fog, tangled lines, rough water and very few fish. Mr. Hoym grew tired of the fishing business so it was just my dad and I and who else we could talk into going with us. One day we talked Mr. Tobinson, the fellow that had built our house, to go with us. Mr. Tobinson was scared stiff about the whole operation. When I went out quite far to get away from the fishermen's nets he was really getting scared. There was a destroyer that had just been built in the shipyard in Duluth. It was out for it's first trial run. It was just sitting out there not doing much for a long time. Then it made a turn and headed in for the Aerial Bridge at top speed. We were just putting along not catching anything, and then I saw something out seaward. It was a big gray mountain of water coming toward us at a terrific speed. I turned the boat toward it and up we went. We got up on top and the motor came out and we could see all over but not for long. Down we went into a big valley and we had a mountain behind us and one in front of us. Then up we went again. After the second wave it smoothed out again. Mr. Tobinson was white as a ghost. He had enough of lake trout fishing for the rest of his life. When we were going back to shore, we hit the wake of the destroyer again. It had gone to shore and came back again but was much smaller.
My dad had traded in the old 1928 Chevrolet Coup on a 1937 Ford. It was a good move because it lasted though the war just fine. Gas rationing was on, and my dad had his own way of saving gas. He would start the engine and drive out of our driveway. After he got it rolling he would shut the engine down and coast to Woodland Ave. where he would have to start it up again. After the stop sign at Woodland, he would get it rolling again and if everything he could make it all the way to work. I talked to a fellow that said he was waiting for the bus at the corner of Saint Marie and Waverly. Everything was very quiet when he heard a strange noise of tires crunching in the snow. He saw my dad in the 37 Ford coming around the corner and going down Waverly like a silent ghost.
Running a car like that in the winter had its problems. I was riding home with him after school and work when the 37 Ford started backfiring. It blew the air cleaner off the carburetor. Flashes of red, yellow and green were coming out from under the hood. My dad stopped at Mike Peterson's gas station to get it checked. Mike tried to pull out the dipstick to check the oil and found it was frozen in the crankcase.
My dad would go fishing and hunting every chance he got. We would go to Rice Lake and rent a metal boat. The fellow that rented the boat would tell us the same thing every time. They were biting very good yesterday.
I had a friend, Walter Olson. We called him Skeizick. He would read books about guns and would like to talk to my dad about them. I would listen to the two of them and was amazed at the things my dad knew about guns.
When I was 15, a neighbor that was a bookkeeper at the Minnesota High way Dept. asked me if I wanted a job. I could ride to work with him and it paid 65 cents an hour. I ended up working with a mud jack crew. They would drill holes in a section of the road that was lower than the rest, pump a mixture of clay and cement in the hole and raise the section of concrete up. My favorite job was flagman. There were very few cars.
Then I went to highschool downtown so I couldn't help my dad any more. I had sinus problems and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. One day I was coming home from school and I saw an ambulance take my dad to the hospital, He had pneumonia.
My mother had taken a trip to visit her family at Stiles, Wisconsin and she said the weather was better there. She said we should get out of Duluth before we got sick and died. The house was put up for sale. My dad gave the church and school notice. I was still working at the highway dept. until I cut my hand sharpening a scythe. My dad gave away all his mounted animals and I gave my model airplanes to the Carlson boy. His bedroom was so full of models hanging from the ceiling in layers that he had to crawl into bed.
The house sold a week after school started for $4,000. We packed our things into the moving van and around sundown got in the 37 Ford and left Duluth. The driver's side window was missing and I was in the back with Corky the dog and it was cold. We drove though the frosty night and arrived at Great Aunt Exora's house in Wabeno in time for breakfast. I drove the rest of the way to Stiles Jct. The moving van was waiting for us and we unloaded our things into Grandma's chicken coup.
I made arrangements with my uncle Amos who drove the school bus that I would get on when he stopped at the rail road crossing. That day I started my junior year at Oconto Falls High School, and it was a traumatic experience.
My mother and dad started looking for a house. The relatives were trying to sell some swampland, and one fellow was trying to sell us a place that belonged to the county. It didn't look good. One night Tony, an old Polish fellow stopped in to see grandma. He was trying to get one of the local widows to marry him and grandma was on his list. We mentioned that we were looking for a place to buy and he said I'll sell you my place. He had 40 acres, a small house, a sheep barn stocked with hay, 12 sheep, and a chicken coop with a bunch of chickens. My folks went over and looked at it the next morning. The house was finished with two stoves, a woodpile, and lots of apples in the basement. Tony mentioned the price of $2,000. He would take only the things he could carry in his 38 Ford. When I got a look at the place I thought it was like going back to the dark ages. It had no electricity and the water pump was outside. But it was closer to Oconto Falls.
My folks went to Oconto with Tony to settle the deal. Tony wanted payments with interest and my dad asked Tony if it included the hay mower. It did and Tony raised the price 500 dollars.
Here is a photo of the farm on Larson lane looked when we bought it.
settled in but there was very little room for our things.
There was no outdoor toilet so my dad got some lumber from the sawmill
and started working on one. I started working on a doghouse
My dad put the toilet on skids so we could move it, which was a good
I built the doghouse and what I learned from that helped build the roof
on the toilet.
Next my dad needed a job. He decided to sell nursery stock for McKay Nursery. He would go out all day and when he came home his voice was all wore out from talking. He would tell us what he did and was all wound up. He did sell some but the locals like to talk more that buy. My dad was his best customer. He bought lots of apple and pear trees, also grapevines and planted them that spring.
I really got acquainted with my parents in that house. First we had Tony's old kerosene lamp and it was dark. Then they found an Aladdin lamp that had a mantel. It was a lot brighter. This is when I started developing film and making prints. I used the Aladdin lamp to make contact prints. Then we got a battery radio so we could get some news and music.
We went to the REA to see if we could get some electricity. They said we could if we dug the postholes. My dad said he could do that. They came and put stakes where the holes were to go. They gave us long handled tools called a spade and a spoon. We started digging in February and found no frost. We took turns digging and on a sunny day I had trouble seeing what I was doing in the hole, so I painted the tools white. I talked to a fellow that worked at the REA many years later and he said they still had the tools that were painted white. My Uncle Dave and my dad wired up the house and in March they came and hooked us up. My Uncle Fran Murphy who had just come home from the army was one of the crew.
There were some funny things that happened to us that first winter. One night Corky the dog started barking. My mother got out of bed and looked out to see what he was barking at. She said to my dad, "There's a Indian out there." It looked like some one was out there with a blanket over their head. Dad got a flashlight and shined it on the object. It was some snowshoes that dad had stuck in the snow bank. The dog whimpered and went back in the doghouse. Another time my parents were sleeping and a large piece of plaster came off the ceiling and landed on them. Tony used blow sand instead of sharp sand in his plaster and concrete. Everything he made was slowly disintegrating.
The first spring the place turned into Mudville. My dad couldn't get the Ford out of the garage. We were learning how to take care of the sheep. The first thing we learned is do not turn your back to the Buck. The first time I did that I heard his hooves coming toward me. I turned around and held my hands in front of me. He just stopped.
There were little lambs running all over the place; One morning I woke up and there was a lamb in the house. My mother said her mother wouldn't take care of it. We had a full time job feeding it every 4 hours. We called it Dolly, and it became a pest. Then we had the job of cutting the tails off the lambs.
My dad got a job working for the county. They would start the day at a garage in Stiles. My dad called it Robbers Roost. They would start pine trees from seed and plant them in the forest. They cleared and plowed fire brakes. One winter they were making a toboggan slide on a hill on the South side of Stiles Pond. I never got to see it because it rained and melted. They also built flat bottom boats to rent at Chute Pond. One day my dad brought home some boards and built us a small boat. It worked, but you had to leave it in the water for some time to soak up so it wouldn't leak.
My dad was always coming up with jokes and funny sayings, and he was at his best when living in that little house.
Mrs. Younger came over one day and asked if we would like to buy the 40 acres between us and Hi Way 22. They had the pine trees logged off that we liked. But the price was right $500. Then we were in the middle of 80 acres.
My dad went to an auction and came back with a big tractor. It was a 15-30 McCormick Deering on steel wheels. He made an A drag out of logs and car axles. He was getting dynamite and blowing stumps. The former owners had just plowed around the old burnt pine stumps. We turned into a family of sodbusters. Corky, the dog, had to go. He was getting loose and chasing the sheep. The Town of Stiles owned a strip of land between the railroad track and us. They said we could use it so they didn’t have to make a fence. The Railroad did. They made a fence using barbwire and the sheep with their big fir coats could go right though it. You had to have woven wire for sheep. When we heard the train blowing its whistle, we knew the sheep were out on the track.
One day my mother found a sheep that was killed by a dog. After that she would take the Iver Johnson 20 gage and go look for the dog if she heard it barking. One day she shot a dog. A short time later the hunter who owned the dog came knocking on the door. They took her to the DA in Oconto. He got out the law book, which stated if a farmer saw a dog that was worrying the sheep, he could shoot it. The word got around. . Don't mess with the Larson's.
Pat Jones stopped in and told my dad there was an opening for a job in the boiler room at the Paper Mill. So my dad got a good job in Oconto Falls. There was a part of the job that my dad didn't like. He had to climb up over the boilers and turn some valves.
My dad found out he had an inner ear problem. He said he was out duck hunting in a boat and a fellow fired a shotgun near his right ear. It made him deaf in that ear. After I graduated from high school, he got a job he liked better in the ground wood department. My Uncle Nap Truckey was working there but he quit to go to Michigan and get married to one of my classmates, Pat Forncrook, and he told my dad about it.
Our graduation was May 28, 1947. When we came out of the gymnasium after it was over it was snowing so hard we could hardly make it home. The trees were leafed out and were breaking down with all the wet snow. Reminded us of Duluth.
My mother had 12 white rock hens and 2 roosters. She was selling the eggs to the Lena Hatchery. After the hens were through laying she found a farmer that had 75 Mescovery Duck eggs for sale. They also call them Turkey Ducks. She put the eggs under the hens and they all hatched. It was quite a sight to see the hens walking around with their wings spread and all kinds of little webfeet walking very fast under them. They grew very fast and required very little feed. They lived on grass and bugs. My Uncle Amos's wife Jenny came to help my mother butcher them. I stayed as far away as I could. They rapped them up in paper and took them to the locker in Oconto Falls to freeze them. Then came the first meal of Turkey Duck. They were dark and greasy. Not good tasting at all. After the third duck my dad wouldn't eat any more. He would have his favorite, Oatmeal. My mother and I did the best we could. We had 72 more to go.
We were always building something with my Uncle Dave's help. First we built a stairway and fixed the upstairs into my bedroom. We tore down Tony's garage and made a little building that my mother called a nursery for the sheep. Then we made an addition to the barn for the sheep to stay in. Then we could fill the original barn with hay. Next was a 24x40-foot garage with cement block walls. This was built with Dick Scott, Bogy Van Boven, my dad and I helping. We had room for a car, truck, and tractor in there. My dad got a kit for making a stove out of an oil drum. We tried it out and the heat just went up in the rafters.
it was time for a drilled well. Tony had dug the
well himself and it went dry one summer. It was drilled a
closer to the house and dad had to make a hole though the field stone
It took about three days of pounding with a star drill. The
went down 70 feet though clay and they found water when they hit
We had a jet pump in the basement, and they put the old hand pump back
on so we could have water if the electric went off. We had
with sediment in the water so I put a filter on it that had to be
about once a month.
Here is our family in 1948.
The next thing was a drain. Tony had dug a ditch and put stone in the bottom. If he had put some doubled up tarpaper over the rock it may have worked. My dad found some pipe called orange pipe. You could cut it with a saw and it had a tube that would fit over the joints. It was my job to dig the trench. Tony had done the hard part and broke through the hard pan.
My dad and I did lots of woodcutting. We used wood for heat from 1945 to 1989. First we would use a Swede saw and ax, skid the logs up with the old 15-30 tractor. Then we hired some fellows with a circular saw rig and cut it up to lengths. Next we got a Wright saw to replace the Swede saw. The Wright saw blade would go back and forth but the stroke was quite short and would bind up with the sawdust. You had to pull it out of the cut at times to clear it. Later we used the chain saws. They cut fast but were more dangerous.
When we were out cutting wood, we found remains of a logging railroad in the front or Younger 40. Some one must have had butternuts in his lunch and dropped one. There was a large butternut tree and lots of small ones around it. We never cut them. It was squirrel heaven. We followed the railroad southeast and it went into the 40 east of us at the corner. Here we found a cut through a small hill. This is where they rolled the logs onto the cars. We think the rails were made out of wood and they used horses to pull the cars.
looked into the history of the land. The south
40 that we bought from Tony was a railroad 40. The government
give 40s on each side of the railroad they sold them to pay for the
Peter bought the 40 from the railroad, logged the pine off of it and
a house. The house had a basement because there was a hole
it was. I talked to a fellow that grew up in Stiles. He said
Peter. When Peter had a few drinks, he would sing and do a dance.
to the records Peter had trouble with his wife. She hooked up
a city slicker and when Peter forgot to pay his taxes, they paid it and
tried to get the land away from Peter. The judge ruled in
favor and said his wife was not a good and trustworthy wife.
Peter sold the land to Knutson who had a wife and daughter. They had a crab apple and snow apple tree, also lilacs by the house. The well was quite a distance to the southeast. My dad could find water with a willow branch. He found a stream of water from Tony's to the well to the South. The willow branch didn't work for me.
Farnsworth bought the North 40 from the government and he logged it. Younger's bought the land so they could say they had a large farm and keep their sons out of the army during WW 11. It worked.
There was meadowland on the South 40 and local farmers would come and get free hay there. During the depression the local fellows would start it on fire and get a dollar a day to put it out.
My dad was good at handling dynamite. Be side-blowing stumps, he would make water holes for the sheep. He made one southeast of the barn but it went dry. Then he tried making one farther to the south. He got 20 sticks of dynamite and put it in a hole with a long fuse. He lit the fuse and walked home. It never went off. The next year he got 20 more sticks and put them in the same location. He lit the fuse and walked home.
went Boom! Boom! All 40 sticks went off this time. It made
a nice water hole. The heavy equipment school that built the
later enlarged it.
My Uncle Earl asked me if I wanted to work for him. He had a 40 acres east of Highway 141 near Stiles that he was logging. I would be working with an Indian for$5.00 a day. I needed the money to buy a camera. He had one of the first chain saws. It took two men to operate it. It weighed 80 pounds on one end and 40 pounds on the other. We only used it on the largest trees. It was too much to carry around. It was a cold and snowy winter and very hard work.
I ordered a 4x5 Crown Graphic Camera, developing tank, some 4x5-film holders and a flashgun. I had to borrow some money from my folks for all the equipment I needed to get started. My first pictures were group photos of students in the country schools. No one bothered with the small schools because of the few students and the amount of traveling it took to take and deliver the orders.
In 1947 my dad ordered a Chevrolet pickup truck. He finally got one in 1949. It was light blue and a classic design. I made the payments for the truck to pay back the money I owed and I got the 37 Ford to use. But not for long. I joined the National Guard and the meetings were in Oconto on Monday nights. An army truck came to pick us up but I thought I would drive the Ford to the highway and wait there. After the meeting they left me off. It had rained and the ground was very soggy. I got the car started and pulled it on the highway to turn around. The motor died and I couldn't get it started. A fellow came from the east and stopped leaving his lights on. With his help we tried to push the car off the road. The back wheels were on the soft shoulder and it wouldn't move. Then a car came from the west. The other fellow said, "It look like he is not going to stop, get out of there!" So I ran down the road a ways and turned around. I heard the brakes squeal and a thump. The 37 Ford jumped up in the air and landed right on the shoulder of the road. The other car stopped right where the Ford was with the front all smashed in. The driver seemed to be OK. The Ford had the side caved in. I sold it to Donny Coopman, who ran a gas station in the Falls, for $25.
What really made me disgusted was when the insurance man came. I had just pulled up to the barn with a load of hay. Black clouds were moving toward us. The insurance man went in to a long-winded speech about why the company didn't have to pay us anything. We were both at fault. This was my first experience with an insurance company. They take your money but never give you anything back. Just as he left it started to rain and I got soaked unloading the hay.
My Aunt Cleo and her husband Fran Murphy had an old car that broke down and sold it to my Uncle Amos. I think it was a 1934 Chevy. My Uncle Amos fixed the wiring so it would run and sold it to me for $85. It was my transportation for getting my photography business started. I also used it going to National Guard meetings and the free movies at Lena on Friday night.
The clutch throw out bearing would always squeal when going though town at 25 mph, You had to watch out for mud puddles. Water would splash up though the floorboards. I was cruising though town and an older fellow came though a stop sign and removed my right fender. The rear end of the car just jumped up and I landed crossways in the road in a cloud of dust. The older fellow lost his headlights and radiator. But I just threw the fender in the back seat and went on my way. I had no insurance on the car and didn't want to raise a fuss. One night I was coming home and all the lights went out. I pulled over to the side of the road and waited for a slower car to come along. Then I pulled out and followed as close as I could until I reached our road. I made it home but then I couldn't drive at night anymore.
A connecting rod on the engine let go one day. I thought the piston was coming though the head. But I got it stopped before it did. I found the nuts in the oil pan and fixed it but it wasn't the same. Its get up and go had left. I sold it to my Uncle Nap for $20 and he junked it.
e to go out in the snow. It had a 5-gallon pail that had to be emptied. We called it the honey bucket. Then my mother wanted a refrigerator. She had never had one. We found one the R.E.A. was selling cheap. When they were unloading it they put a big dent in the side. There was no room in the house for it. So we decided to cut a hole in the wall and make a little room for it. It stuck out in the back shed. The dent didn't show at all.
dad enjoyed the location of our place. We were in
the middle of 80 acres of good hunting land. I remember when
hunting season came. My mother and dad would be up before
Dad would be getting dressed in his hunting outfit. His gun
be all cleaned, oiled and loaded. His favorite spot would be
big pine tree near the railroad tracks.
Sometimes he would get his deer right away. Once he got a shot at one and it got away. Then we had to go looking for it. Once it started raining and he came home and sat in the house watching out the window. He saw a buck eating grass out in the field. He stuck his gun out the back shed door and shot it. My mother shot a deer one-year. She said the other hunters watched her dress it out and wouldn't help her.
In 1949 I thought I knew enough about photography to start a photo studio in Oconto Falls. A fellow that had a sweet shop said he would divide the store in half for a studio and darkroom and reception room. Rent would be $75 a month. I borrowed some more money from the folks and gave it a try. Then I reached the learning curve. I learned that I had a lot more to learn. Most of the work was outside the studio. I was taking progress photos for the dam the REA. was building at Stiles. When I took air views of the land to be flooded I would take a flying lesson. When I was taking photos over the dam my black baseball cap blew off. I thought that was the last I would see of that. About 4 years later I was talking to Mr. O'Neal at Stiles. He said he was working in his garden and watched this airplane flying overhead. Something Black came out of it and was spinning around. It landed right in his garden. He went in the house and got my black baseball cap.
I took photos for the Falls Paper and Power Co. Teal Newsletter. I would get to see my dad at work. In the wood lot I took a photo of a group of workers. One was smoking a cigarette. When the fellows in the office saw the photo they called the Forman in on the carpet and gave him a warning. He kept on the look out for me after that.
My dad got some heavy canvas from the paper . It was used on the paper machine. I built a frame for the back of the truck and covered it with the canvas. When it came to painting I found the canvas just soaked up the paint. It took about 6 gallons. I painted Larson in a script style on each side. Now we could haul the sheep around ourselves. My mother wanted to build up the sheep herd to purebred Hampshire's. We took a ride about 100 miles west of us on the other side of Wausau and she bought two Hampshire ewes for $60 each. She also found a buck some where. This is when my dad started saying he was an agriculturist. He made his money in town and spent it on the farm.
My mother was buying corn, oats, and hay. She had my dad making moveable fences. My dad called the sheep, lawn mowers with fertilizer attachments. We had the neighbor boy take a buck to the fair. He won grand champion.
Roger St. Album started a studio in Oconto Falls. He had gone to school to learn photography. The place I was renting was not paying for itself. I lasted three months and moved my darkroom to the upstairs in the little house. I wired it up myself and used the sinks I had made out of wood and plumbed them up using garden hose. My mother didn't appreciate the leaks. I had to break the lease and pay the landlord $300. I was learning the hard way.
Roger got the job for the Oconto Falls High School Yearbook. He needed help and I was available. He was taking Senior Portraits and he didn't have enough film holders. So I got a job unloading and loading film holders and developing film. I learned a lot from him; Roger learned a lot also. He found out that keeping the customers happy is not easy. His father and brothers were in the construction business. He sold the studio to Bob Mortell and joined his brothers.
next summer I got a job that took me up in the world.
I sat up 100 feet in the air in the Stiles Fire Tower looking for
I didn't have to work on rainy days.
Dad working at paper mill.
Scott Paper bought out the Falls Paper Mill. The ground wood was shut down and my dad got a different job. He worked on a machine called a Roger. Sheets of pulp came off it and he would fold the sheets and pile them on a skid. When the skid was full they loaded it on a truck and took it to Marinette, Wisconsin where Scott had another paper mill. He worked 6 hours a day 6 days a week. The shifts would rotate backwards every week. No one liked the midnight to 6 shift. He would eat a big bowl of oatmeal before he went to work. He said it stuck to his ribs.
The paper mill job was one that everyone wanted. The pay and benefits were the best around but after you got a job there most hated it. My dad had a name for some of the workers but in English it meant sadistic. I worked at a lot of the jobs in the mill when some one would take a vacation or get sick. I was working in the shipping department loading boxes of toilet tissue in a boxcar. One fellow put a box out that he had just glued. When I picked it up the bottom opened up and the tissue came rolling out in all directions. Then he stood there laughing when I had to gather them up. Some of the other workers scolded him for what he had done but he didn't care. One of the things I noticed when working at the paper mill was that the day seemed a lot longer. My dad said that too. He also said that most of the workers never made it to retirement. They were heavy smokers and drinkers. I took family pictures for some of the workers and they died shortly after. My mother was allergic to dad's smoking so he quit before he left Duluth. He did like his mint flavored snuff. His favorite outfit was overalls. He said he didn't have enough hips for a belt to hold his pants up.
mother would get us up at 6 am every Sunday for Mass at
St. Patrick's Church at Stiles. Some time my dad couldn't
because of his shift work. In the afternoon my mother would
to go over to her mother's house at Stiles Jct. Some of her
and brothers and other friends and relatives would show up. It was the
I got a job working for Soil Conservation Service laying out contours and drainage ditches for farmers. I also drove school bus. I ended up driving the same International bus that my Uncle Amos drove when he picked me up for school. Every other night I ran movie the projector at the theater in Oconto Falls. On Saturday I would take candid wedding photos and do developing and printing on the nights I didn't run the projector. I still had time to sail my sailboat, and later on I learned to fly.
Dad started turning yellow and didn't feel well. We took him to the doctor and he put him in the hospital. He had hepatitis. They said it was his gallbladder and he needed an operation after he recovered.
It was 1952 and TV was the big thing. The movie business was very slow. I lost my job running projector, but I saw an ad, they were looking for a photographer in a station that was starting up at Marinette Wisconsin. I went for an interview in February and got the job but I wouldn't start till June. The transmitter tower was going up North of Oconto. It was interesting watching the TV station going together. I built the dark room; film editing tables and flats for sets in the studio. They got the station, WMBV channel 11 going in September and it was a disappointment. The signal wasn't getting out as far as they thought it would. It was in the wrong location. They moved everything to Green Bay with a new crew so my job lasted a year and a half.
I bought a Piper Cub airplane from Bob Jubin in Oconto. A school buddy, Bill Regal said he would go in partnership with me and I could keep it at his father's mink farm on B North of Oconto Falls. I gave every one a ride in it including my dad. I only had a student license and wasn't supposed to give rides. It lasted a year and needed a complete rebuild. We took it all apart and had it covered when my partner got a job flying for a company in Rockford Ill. We took it to Shawano and hired a fellow to finish the job. Then we sold it. That plane is still flying and it is at Hartford Wisconsin.
parents decided to build a new house with a bathroom in
it. It is not fun living in a house without a
had a hole dug for the basement in August. My parents and I
the footing and set the forms for the basement. We hired
to put in the basement with our help. Then we hired Carl
build the house with me helping. We got it closed in by
for inside work. It was the first house to have aluminum siding,
heat and an underground telephone line. They ran the
down the road. They soon found out that this was not the way
it because the frost would heave the culverts and break the wire. After
that they laid the wire along the side of the road.
a ditch dug and ran the water line from the old house to the new
Dad bought a metal septic tank from Sears and dug the hole and put it
It didn't last. It had to be replaced with a concrete tank and dry well
and drain field. I bought a table saw and built the dark rooms in the
Had a fireplace built in the basement studio. I learned a lot
fireplaces from that project. We put a wood stove in the basement and
out it did a good job of heating the whole house. The REA was
with our electric use.
When we were getting the house plastered in the summer of 1956 we took a trip to Duluth. They were having their centennial celebration. We saw a lot of old friends. We thought the city-looked run down and the weather was damp and foggy as usual.
I installed stainless steel sinks, built cabinets in the dark room, and got the studio walls finished and I was in the photography business before the house was completed. I put a sign up on the highway and the customers started coming in.
I moved the bench saw upstairs and started working on the bathroom. After that I finished my bedroom and I moved in. I remember Nells Anderson and family came to visit us that summer when I was working on the kitchen. Daughter Marie was 16 and Bob was 11. We moved in that fall and it was wonderful to have a bathroom with hot water and room to move around.
mother went to a hospital in Green Bay for cataract surgery.
Those were the days when they removed the lens and you had to lay on
back and not move for a day. Then she had glasses that had
domes of glass in them. My dad saw the process and did not
have it done when it was time for him. However, it was time
gall bladder surgery.
I took him to the Oconto Falls Hospital and when we were riding in the elevator with a nurse, Dad said,"It seems strange to go to a hospital when you are feeling fine." The nurse said. We will take care of that. We went back the next morning. They had given him some thing to relax him before the surgery. He was coming up with one joke after another. When they wheeled him down the hall to the operating room he was singing a little song. Here I go to the butcher shop. He wasn't happy in the hospital after the operation. It was a hot August and no air-conditioning in the hospital. I took him home and he could sit in the shade where there was a breeze. He recovered quickly and could eat anything after that.
My business prospered. I got some of the local ladies transparent oil coloring sets and taught them how to color photographs. I had learned to color photographs when in high school and worked for the photographer that took our senior photos. The ladies learned fast and enjoyed doing the work and making a few bucks in there spare time in there own home.
I was taking candid weddings, studio weddings, class reunions, confirmations, portraits, and any kind of commercial work. I bought a used set of lights for taking portraits and studied books on taking them to improve my work.
My dad bought a Cub Garden Tractor with all kinds of attachments. He could plow, drag, cultivate, saw wood, pull a trailer, and plow snow. We made roads all over the woods so we could cut the dead trees for firewood. My dad taught me to identify the trees by the bark. He liked to cut the trees up and throw the blocks in piles. I would come out with the tractor and trailer and haul them in and pile them near the garage where the wood would dry. We had lots of close calls and learned not to park the tractor and trailer too close to the falling trees. The tractor had dents and the trailer had broken boards to show for it.
They made dad a night watchman at the mill. His shift was 6 PM to 12AM or 12AM to 6 in the morning. When the holidays came, he would work12 hours, all overtime. One cold night his tooth started to ache. He went out in the truck and pulled it himself with ice cold vice grips.
I had a 1955 Willys car that I bought sight unseen from a catalog. It didn't have turn signals and you couldn't get any parts for it. A photo customer came in with a 1959 Nash Rambler station wagon. It was dark blue with a light blue strip on the tail fin. That was the car I wanted, only I wanted a white strip on the fin. I went to the Nash dealer in Oconto. He said he could get a dark blue one and paint the white stripe on it. He said that it would be $50 for delivery. I said I would get it myself. Easter Monday I took the train from Oconto. They had an observation car and dining car on that train. When I got off at Kenosha, a taxi driver spotted me and said, "dealer drive." I drove it home carefully, driving it slow at times so it wouldn't over heat. You had to break in the engines in those days. It was a classy looking car and it got good gas mileage.
Dad took a trip to Quebec Canada with it. My mother's mother wanted to see St. Ann's Church there. Her belated relatives bought the land for the church. They were fishermen and were caught in a storm. They prayed to St. Ann and promised if they lived through it they would start a church for her. Dad got 33 miles to the gallon on that trip with 5 passengers and their luggage.
night dad phoned from the paper mill and said the truck
wouldn't start. He needed a ride home. I took a
glance at the
thermometer. It was 23 below. The Rambler was in
and started. Going down the road it rode like a lumber
On the highway I heard something that sounded like glass hitting the
The outside rear view mirror had fallen out.
I remember the day my dad told my mother that he was going to retire soon and the sheep had to go. My mother was unhappy, but I was elated. My dad said he couldn't afford to buy the hay, grain, and fencing. I was the sheep catcher. I had to catch them for shearing when they needed medicine or dusting. Castrating and cutting the tails off. I think they hated me. My mother would wake me up at 2 in the morning to hold the ewe's head while she was on the other end in the birthing process. I had a special jacket that I kept in the back shed of the old house. It smelled terrible. My dad found a fellow worker at the mill that would buy the sheep. He lived on the highway on the way to Oconto. My mother could see them in the field when we traveled that way
Then my dad and I tore down the fences and the barn. My dad never liked fences. I remember when I was carrying a roll of woven wire fence home on a windy day, the wind in the wire hummed and moaned. I thought to myself. This is the way you get this sound.
The next spring my dad plowed up the field and my mother planted buttercup squash. She grew all kinds of them, but she couldn't sell them. We had squash all winter and they were good. The next year she planted muskmelon. She had bushels of them. She couldn't sell them either. I ate muskmelons till I got sick.
The next year she and my dad put in a patch of strawberries. They had a winner. Everyone around came to pick strawberries. She had my dad and I making picking baskets and row numbers. She kept my dad busy plowing, dragging, and transplanting strawberry plants. My mother heard about some white Chinese Geese that would eat the weeds but not the strawberries. Then my dad had to fence the patch in so they couldn't get out. They worked fine. Those geese wouldn't go in a shelter. They lived out side all the time. I remember on a cold windy winter day those geese out there. I couldn't stand watching them.
The next year they put the whole place in strawberries. Dad was out plowing and dragging. A lady down the road, Mrs. Sheldon, came to help. They even had me working. I hauled water mixed with nutrient that they used when transplanting. The next spring the plants looked good. I put ads in all the newspapers, and made a sign for the road. Then disaster struck. The berries got the blight and didn't develop. My parent's were busy telling the people that drove in the bad news. I couldn't get any thing done in the darkroom because the telephone was ringing all the time. My dad was disgusted. He said that was the end of farming.
1963 was a busy year. My dad sold the truck to a friend and bought a new Rambler station wagon. I added a 44'x24' studio addition to the house. Then I had a reception room and a large high studio to take pictures in. I bought a new camera and electronic strobe lights. I also went in partnership on an old Stenson 10 an airplane.
Then we had some excitement about that time. A fellow by the name of Leonard Coopman disappeared that spring. He was working at a tavern between Lena and Stiles Jct. It put his family in dire straits. My mother thought she should get up a reward for finding him but I talked her out of it. I said that I would take a picture of the family and enlarge a picture of Leonard and put it in the paper. I did this with no results.
That fall my mother and Mrs. Sheldon were out walking in a ditch in our front 40.
My mother kicked something with her foot. Mrs. Sheldon recognized it as a human skull.
My mother noticed some rags that looked like what Coopman was wearing. My mother went home and called the police. They came roaring up the road with sirens blaring. They were out spinning their wheels in our front lawn. It looked like something out of a Keystone cops movie. A lady that wrote for the Green Bay Press Gazette was visiting down the road and called. My mother told her that it might be Coopman she found but not to release anything until they found out for sure. It didn't work. It was in the afternoon paper and that is how the Coopman family found out about it.
It was the big discussion topic in all the local watering holes. Who killed Coopman? Every one thought, I know I didn't do it but I don't know about you. About a year later a fellow by the name of Web from Leona turned himself in at Arizona. When they took him to Oconto he said he confessed to get a free ride home. They nailed him with Coopman's murder and considered the case closed.
Two years in a row my dad took a road-mowing job for the Town of Stiles. They were desperate. They couldn't get anyone to do it. We had to mow all the roads in Stiles for $5 an hour. It was hard on the equipment. We ran into all kinds of things. Once I ran into a wheel rim and we had a hard time getting the cutter bar out to replace the teeth.
One day I was mowing along and the engine quit. I couldn't get it started. I checked it over the best I could with no luck. Dad came along in the truck and he tried to start it. Then he said, "push the tractor a head a short distance." We did and it started right up. Dad pointed at the ground and said, Dead Indian."
As long as my parents quit farming I thought I would ask them if I could make an airstrip on the place. They said they had a raspberry patch that they were working on but they said OK anyway. This was something that I really never dreamed about. I made a bunch of stakes up and laid it out. It ended up N.W and SW 150 ft. wide and 1,700 ft. long. A heavy equipment school from Gillette said they would make it if I furnished the diesel fuel. My dad and I started cutting trees on each end. We made large piles of firewood that year. The school came in June and started leveling the land. They used around $75.00 worth of fuel a week. It was the last job they did. They went bankrupt. They left the equipment there and the sheriff put red tags on them. I got the Town of Stiles grader to come and finish the job. Then my dad and I pulled an old wagon rim with the tractor and picked stones to really smooth it out. Lee Hartwig and Dick Rosenfedt were the first ones to land on it with a champ. I landed on it Jan. 10 1965 with the Stinson 10 A.
That spring I had a neighbor, John Krischer plant it with oats and grass. The next thing was to build a T hanger. I found some plans and started digging postholes. It was a hard job. I hired a neighbor boy, Tom Birdick to help me, 3 dollars a hole. He thought it would be easy money. He soon found out it wasn't. Then I hired my Uncle Dave Truckey, and we built the hanger.
In March of 1965 Lee Hertwig and I took a ride in the Stinson to Oseola Wisconsin to look at an airplane. When we landed the snow banks were higher than the plane. They were building an airplane called a Champion Citabria. We took a ride in the demonstrator and it was just what I needed to get in and out of my airstrip. I put my order in for one and they said I could pick it up in July.
My parents and I went in partnership on a Ford pickup with a camper in the back. It had large tires on the back wheels. Dad sent them to the factory in Akron, Ohio, to get them recapped. My parents took lots of trips in the camper. They went over to visit the relatives in Glen Flora and I took a ride in the Stinson to visit them. When I arrived, they were not around but Ema's boys were going to take a boat ride down the Flambeau River. They needed some one to drive the car and trailer back so I was available. Later that evening I took the plane up the river to see if I could find them. I found them and they hadn't traveled very far from where they had started. I heard that many years later one of Ema's boys had lost his life swimming in the Flambeau River.
I arrived back home, I found out that I had forgotten
to lock the studio door. I found the mail piled up on the
room counter and the door locked. I had good customers.
One day I took the Stinson to Menomonee, Michigan, airport to see the Golden Knights parachute jumpers. It was a very windy day. I started talking to a fellow that was waiting for an airplane that he planned on buying. It didn't show up because of the wind. I told him that I had an airplane for sale and showed him the Stinson. We made a date for the sale. A few days later my friend Lee Hertwig and I flew to Menomonee. I flew the Stinson and Lee flew in his Champ. We did the paper work and I got $1,000. The fellow that bought the Stinson had the name Larson also. I heard he had a hard time learning to fly it.
My dad was enjoying his retirement by doing a lot of traveling. My parents went to the West Coast in the 63 Rambler station wagon and now they were taking trips in the Ford truck camper. My mother was allergic to rag weed so they would take off for the north the first part of August. My mother had a cousin in Eley, Minnesota, and they went there for quite a few years. After that, they would go to Two Harbors on Lake Superior.
The hanger was ready in June 1965 and my airplane wasn't ready in July. The factory had a windstorm that wrecked 3 airplanes that were parked outside, so they were a month behind. I sent them a post card of a photo of my empty hanger, and a note saying, please fill my empty hanger. They told me later that they passed it around the office.
The airplane was finished August 28 and I took North Central Airlines to Minneapolis. The weather was cloudy with a low overcast. The pilot made a missed approach to Marshfield. We came out above a farmer's field. But made it the second time. I had to take a taxi to St. Paul Airport. I had to wait a long time and when my beautiful airplane landed with the president of the company at the controls he told me what happened. They had an older fellow that did odd jobs around the plant. He had the job of coming to pick me up. When he was walking out to the airplane, he fell down on the ground. Then Brown, the president of the Co., drove him to the hospital in Minneapolis. They found out the older fellow had an inner ear condition. That's why it took so long to pick me up. Brown was the demonstrator pilot for the Champion Company and he did a snap roll and loop over his house. It was too late for me to fly home, but he let me take the plane for a ride and then took me to St. Croix falls to stay the night in a motel. There was a bad thunderstorm that night and the weather was bad in the morning. Some pilots flew in and I went to lunch with them. They said the weather was so bad that they had a hard time finding the airport. In the afternoon it was windy with rainsqualls, but I started for home. It was a very bumpy ride but I made good time with the tail wind. It was a good feeling to land on the new airstrip with my folks waiting for me and put it away in the hanger. I called up my instructor friend, Lee Hertwig, and told him I got the plane home. He said,"you flew home in that weather! He said he flew his Champ to Crivitz to give some instructions and the weather was so bad he had his student drive him home." I took him to Crivitz the next morning and gave him a loop on the way.
The name of my airplane was Citabria. It was stressed for 6 Gs positive and 4 Gs negative. Now I had an airplane with the right equipment, radio with VOR and needle ball, to get a private license. First I had to study for the written examination. I had to learn about navagtion and weather. Lee Hertwig and I would play a game that had all kinds of questions. When I thought I was ready I went to the Green Bay Flight Service Center. I had my parents saying prayers and I passed the test the first time. I had to learn all about using a plotter for navigation, winds, magnetic deviation, etc. I went back to drawing a line on the map and following it.
Lee Hertwig used the plane for his instructor test. I went with him to Milwaukee. We parked the airplane near the terminal and I sat near the window. Some of the passengers coming and going remarked about the cute little airplane. Lee gave me free instructions for my flight test.
I took the test at Appleton Max Air from Max himself. Max tried to get me lost and taught me how to do wheel landings at 90 mph. Max signed me off fast because he was busy making sandwiches for the noon lunch. Now I had my private license and could give rides legally.
I took my dad for his first trip in an airplane to Duluth. We landed at Sky Harbor Airport on Park Point. We stayed over night at Arnie Isakson's house. Arnie had married Gee Gee, one of the Thompson daughters. They adopted two children and Gee Gee died and Arnie raised Roger and Linda by himself. The next day we flew on to Cloquet and visited with Archie and Celia Lessor, my Godparents and then we flew back home.
My cousin, Doris Manning, had been corresponding with relatives and she discovered relatives in . This is why we started thinking about sending some one over there to find out where our grandparents came from.
I had never traveled on a jet and had very little experience on airline travel. Dave Regal asked me if I would like to go with him to visit his brother Bill in Florida. I decided to take him up on it for the experience. Wow! Was it an experience?
My parents took us to the Green Bay Airport. It was the last of January 1968. We flew on a turboprop Convair to Milwaukee. It was a cloudy dark day and a snowstorm had hit Chicago. They thought the storm would move to Milwaukee so they decided to buss us to O Hare. As we entered Chicago the snow was really coming down. The roadways were not frozen and it made the snow slushy and very slippery. Cars were starting to get stuck in the middle of the road. We made it to the terminal and nothing was flying. We watched out the window and saw the plows trying to plow snow but all they were doing was spinning their wheels. Dave wanted to take a bus in and find a motel to stay in. I said, "No way, we stay here!" We later found out that the busses were getting stuck and the passengers would freeze after the bus ran out of fuel. We found some seats with out arms in the passenger waiting area and made a bed out of them. This is where we spent the night. The storm did not move. It stayed right there and the snow just kept piling up. The roads were filled up with stuck cars so it was almost impossible for the plows to operate.
The next morning the snow stopped, but nothing was moving. I had a small radio and the people were calling the radio station and describing what they saw out their windows. People were stranded all over. They were seeking shelter anywhere they could find it. Some didn't find any and were frozen to death in their vehicles. Another thing I heard three astronauts were burned up in a training exercise at Cape Canaveral.
I stuck my head in a doorway and someone said. "Hey! I know you." He had lived in Oconto, Wisconsin, and I would go flying with his brother. He had a job working for Eastern Airlines and let us make some phone calls. We let everyone know what had happened to us. I even talked to his brother that was snowed in at Chicago.
We slept another night in the chairs and the next morning we found a bus that was going to Milwaukee. The storm did not hit Milwaukee and the airport was operating. It was very busy but we managed to get a flight on Northwest. It landed in Atlanta Georgia, and was going on to Miami. We wanted to go to Orlando so we got off and found Delta had a flight to Orlando in an hour. We managed to get our Eastern tickets changed to Delta. We just made it. We ended up in first class on a DC8. It landed in Jacksonville and Dave called his brother and told him we were coming. We landed in Orlando before Bill could drive there and our luggage was with us.
We had a good week. We went fishing in the Atlantic, visited Cypress Gardens and Cape Canaveral. Also went with Bill when he delivered a mobile home in Tampa.
The flight back was like the book Airport. When we arrived in Atlanta out flight was canceled because of a snowstorm in Chicago. The next flight was going to try to make it. We ended up in first class because we were flying standby. The crew from the flight that was bumped was flying with us and I sat with the flight engineer. We couldn't get into Chicago because there was a plane stuck on the runway in a snowstorm. We flew in a holding pattern until the plane was low on fuel. Then we landed at Louisville and fueled up. We took off and went into a holding pattern again and then gave up on trying to land at Chicago. We again landed at Louisville and they put us up at a fancy motel. After a short nights sleep we boarded the plane and started the take off run. The stewardess noticed the door was leaking on the Boeing 727 and buzzed the pilot who aborted the take off and went back to the terminal. After the door was fixed it was daylight and we could see the snowed in world below us. We took the first plane to Green Bay and had to wait for the next plane to get our luggage.
Now I was ready for the trip to Norway. We went to the travel bureau and they had a deal in May. We had to stay 14 days. My dad started corresponding with Johan Sackseide in Bergen. He would take his vacation and be our guide.
I remember a few days before the trip. Dad was working on a chain saw. He had the spark plug out and he gave it a pull and gas came out and hit him in the eyes and blinded him. I got a pail of water and dad splashed water on his eyes and he was OK but it gave us a scare.
mother decided not to go but she packed our bags and got
us ready. I had learned how to tool leather and made myself a camera
to take along.
This was in the Green Bay Press.
The day came and some neighbors took us to the airport in Green Bay. A DC9 whisked us to Chicago in a half-hour. Then we took American Airlines 727 to New York. At 9pm we boarded a Scandinavian Airline plane and in about 6 hours we were in Bergen Norway. We arrived at 9 am Norway time. It was the shortest night I ever experienced. There wasn't anything to going though customs. The fellow stamped our passport and said,"wellcome to Norway." Johan and his son in law were there to pick us up; Johan was holding one of my gray envelopes that I use for mailing proofs so we could identify him. They tied our luggage on top of the Volkswagen and off we went for Bergen. Then I saw why the Norwegian immigrants liked Duluth. Duluth was built on a hill, but Bergen was built on a hill that didn't stop going up. When we arrived at Johan's home we found it was built on the side of a hill. The road ended and the house was about 150 feet above us. Dad and I were getting winded, and we still had a ways to go. Then I realized that everything that was needed in Johan's house had to be carried by hand up the hill. There was a rope and pulley system that was used for building the house and they told us the story about when the rope broke and they had to run for there lives when the building materials came down the hill. One thing I can say, they certainly had a beautiful view.
Johan had a large Norwegian Flag and had dad put it up on the pole. I think this was to show that he had guests. Alfreda had a lunch on the table with small US flags on it. They also had small Norwegian Flag pins that they pinned on us.
Alfreda gave me a crash course on Norwegian. She gave up after five minutes. I did learn some words that I thought were interesting. Fly place is an airport, bile is automobile, and racy cat is weasel. Super and OK are the same and varsy goo covers everything. They use it when they answer the phone and sit down to eat. They asked me what we say when we sit down to eat and I said,"dig in". They thought that was funny.
My dad dictated a diary to Doris Manning Wetjen and she typed it up after the trip. He had us going over to visit Ceselie and her husband, Vilhelm Harkestad, on the second day. But I am sure it was on the first day because I can remember coming back from there and being very tired. Jon Sakseide, Valdborg; married to Magnus Kvalheim and Elsie Fotland were there. Kvalheims lived at Luster about three miles from here. We took pictures and had a wonderful supper of strictly Norwegian dishes.
can remember talking to Elsie Fotland; they called her the
She could talk English quite well. She told me she worked at
department store and was going to fly to Oslo to see a man friend
Dad and I were getting so tired we could hardly keep our eyes
When we went out in the cool air to get the cab it helped a little.
Johan and Alfreda gave us their room to sleep in. There were two feather quilts, and I banged mine down around me. The minute we put our heads down we were asleep. When I woke up in the morning, I had the quilt wound around me like a corkscrew. Dad thought it looked funny.
The next morning it was time to learn about our surroundings. They talked about WW11, and the Russians would come to visit a field down below us in the valley. I kept asking my dad what that was all about. He said the Germans brought a lot of Russian prisoners to Bergen and had them make a road up to the top of the mountain that overlooks Bergen. They wanted antiaircraft guns up there. When the job was finished, they had the prisoner's dig there own graves, then shot them and buried them there. I wanted to see what the road looked like, but never got the chance.
I asked about the lake in the bottom of the valley and why it was not used? The answer I got was that it was polluted. It seemed that the houses up on the hill had water piped to them but no sewer. They had septic tanks and not enough soil to absorb the effluent. It was running down the rocks. I hope they have this problem solved by now.
Johan and Alfreda had a daughter Elsa and her husband, Gerard Maeland, living in an apartment near by. They had two children, Annita and Gary. I called him Gary because I couldn't pronounce his real name. Gary was 11 at the time and had learned English in school. We carried on a conversation of sorts. When I saw him frown, I would try another word. He was about to take a test that would determine if he would go on to high school. I heard he made it. He was disgusted with the Norwegian Government during WW11 because the Germans just landed at the airport and occupied the land. He said they wouldn't let it happen again.
May 16, 1968, we went to the city of Bergen and Johan showed us many places of interest: museum, theater, fish market and Rosin Tower, and we bought souvenirs. I remember I bought a map and it was very detailed so we could tell where we were in our travels. That evening Johan told us,"Six o'clock in the morning, boom!" The next morning May 17th I found out. They shoot an aerial bomb up in the air at six and it wakes every one up for the big seventeen of May celebration (Independence Day from Sweden). We went to the parade and I met a fellow that I was corresponding with. I belonged to the Voicespondence club and I found his name in there. We would send audiotapes back and forth in the mail. He was a doctor's son and could speak English very well. We had a very interesting conversation. Then we went to Floybanen on top of the mountain and had a dinner overlooking Bergen. We went to Elsa and Gehard's house and had more to eat. They like to eat in Norway, five times a day.
May 18, 1968, we had our bags packed, and my dad and I with Johan and Freda took the bus downtown and boarded another bus for Norheimsund. The bus had room for freight in the back and mail pouches in the front. There were quite a few young people with their skies. We went though many tunnels and climbed up in the mountains where the skiers got off. We went by a glacier and Johan told my dad that some French men went out exploring it and were never heard from again. The road was so narrow that we met a car and the car had to back up to a wider spot so we could pass. The bus would stop at small villages and the driver would pass the mailbags out the window to a waiting postman. We arrived at Norheimund at 1:00p.m. We had lunch and boarded an old milk boat loaded with empty milk cans. It had a large one-cylinder engine that propelled it through the water. It would dock at the small towns and unload the empty milk cans. My dad was noticing the names of the towns and would say, "Oh that’s where the neighbors came from." We came to a town by the name of Earsland and there was a roaring waterfall. My dad said, "That's why the Earslanders talked so loud." When we arrived at Grotnes my dad's eyes were full of tears and he said,"this is where my mother lived." Magne Hesvik was coming down the hill from the left with his bicycle to meet us. We loaded our cases on the handlebars of the bicycle and went up the hill to the house where my grandmother lived. Cousin's Martha (Grotnes) Heesvik, her husband Olav and, daughter, Anna greeted us. We were treated to a genuine Norwegian supper of lefsa, flat bread, potato cakes, and cream cake.
After supper we all sat around the table and I found out what it was like to be in a foreign country and couldn't understand the language. They were so busy talking and telling jokes that my dad could never have kept up with the translating. I took a walk outside and could hear Anna in the barn milking the cows and singing Norwegian Songs. The sun went down but it didn't get dark there was an afterglow. One of the Heesvik sons went out and shot a large bird around midnight for dinner the next day. My dad and I slept in the attic of the house. There was a trunk and a spinning wheel up there. My dad looked around and said. "This is just like the old country. I said, "This is the old country." The large square beams of the roof were sagging because of the weight of the slate roof.
May 19, 1968, Sunday--It was a beautiful day. After another hardy meal they hired a fellow with an automobile to take us for a ride along the 3-mile road. Mr. and Mrs. Heesvik rode in the back seat. Dad and I were in the front seat with the driver. It was my job to get in and out and open and shut the gates every time we came to a fence. They came up often; the driver never got the car out of second gear. We came to the end of the road where it was under construction. They were blasting it out of solid rock on the side of a mountain. The fellow that was the driver was one of the crew that was building the road and he had been working on it for three years.
took pictures of the farm and the Heesvik's, also copied photos
off the wall and pages of books that dad said were important.
them where they made the Norwegian flat bread. They showed me
down the basement with a flat metal top. They had a pile of
that they used for fuel. I also took a photo of the bird that was shot
for the main meal. They told me not to show it to any one
it was an endangered species. Then I asked about the spinning
and Martha showed me how to run it. I gave it a whirl and
May 20 1968, In the morning dad was talking to the relatives and I went outside to visit with the two little girls that were playing in the sun. It was about 10 am and this is the only time that the wind is not blowing. At night the wind blows from the land to the sea, and after the land warms by the sun in the day, it blows inland. At 10 am it is in the process of changing. It was nice when the wind wasn't blowing. I pulled a piece of grass out and started chewing on it and the little girls said," He et grass." They started laughing; they thought it was very funny. We carried on a conversation of sorts and I could start to understand them. They used simple words and I thought this is the way to learn Norwegian.
arranged for a boat trip to see the Folgeforn (in English, Land
of the Perpetual Snow) for the next day. Then my dad and I
Hesvik went fishing in a rowboat. Magne said the place was very fished
out, but he knew a place by a creek that we could catch some.
was a farm there that was for sale. It was in a valley facing north and
the sun shined on it only a few hours on the longest days of the year.
There were quite a few buildings on it, but it must have been
to live there with no sun. My dad did catch some fish, and it
hard rowing back against the wind. We had the fish for supper
May 21, 1968, Today my dad, Johan and I took a boat ride down Maurangerfjord and we saw many hamlets. They were Kysnes, Heimdalenstrand, Hamaren, and Maurangsnes (which is the place where the movie Viking was filmed). We went past Fureberg, the town near the waterfalls. At Sunndal we had a lunch in a small but very quaint hotel. Then my dad and I took a walk through the town and up in the hills to get a better view of the Folgeform. We kept walking toward it but always seemed the same distance away. The scenery was breathtaking. We returned back to the Grotnes place at 5 p.m. where Martha had a supper for us. Like my dad said, We were living like a hog on ice. Without our guide we wouldn't be able to see anything.
Magne Hesvik lived in a new house just a bit down hill from the old house. His wife was in a hospital in Bergen and gave birth to a new son. He had all the modern conveniences in his house including running water without a water pump. When he drilled for water, it came out under pressure. He farmed in the summer and was a sailor on a ship in the winter.
May 22, 1968, Johan, dad and I walked to Kysnes with Magne carrying our bags on his bicycle and at 3.30 boarded the mail boat for Haugesund. We traveled down Hardangerfjord, entering Bamafjord. At Sunde dad met his first cousin at the dock and she presented him with a spoon. She was the daughter of Hans Grotnes.
May 23,1968, We arrived at Haugesund at 2 in the morning and stayed at a fancy hotel. They put the American flag out front for us. Johan Gjesdal, our cousin drove us to Johan Erland's farm, whose wife Magnihild is dad's first cousin. Here we met lots of cousins who came from nearby. We were eating 5 times a day again. I asked one of the boys how do you get anything done on the farm eating 5 times a day? He said that is only for visitors. My mother has been working for two weeks preparing the food.
24, 1968, From dad's Diary. We went to Haugesund where
we met our first cousin Guro. She gave us a wonderful
and our cousin, Johan Gjesdal took us for a ride where we saw many
sights such as prehistoric graves of the "five bad daughters" in the
burial ground, and one of the very old churches where a pillar is set
the ground and leans toward the church. It has been
that when it touches the church the world would end. We left
from Haugesund at 6:pm and a two-hour ride brought us to Bergen, back
May 25, 1968, Gehard Meeland took us for a long ride, which took us to a museum containing such things as were used many years ago when girls took care of the sheep. They spun wool, made cheese, and clipped the sheep. Next we drove to the ruins of Lyse cloister where the monks lived along about the year 1000. It was now in ruins and had been destroyed in the in the reformation in the year 1500. To this day, the ruins show the room, crypts, etc. as they were then. We rode though the countryside and arrived at King Olaf's summer home. We took many pictures of the castle grounds, car, etc. After a sightseeing tour through Bergen, we came home to Freda and a big meal was waiting for us. Then we made a tape to Louie and Nels. We went and visited Christofferson Furevik and had an enjoyable dinner and evening in the heart of Bergen.
May 26, 1968, We took a bus to the boat docks, boarded a boat and after an hour's ride, reached Floksand where we again took a bus and reached Kristian Sakseide's farm. There we visited, ate and ate, and I took pictures of the farm, and countryside. The Sakseid boy's first took me up on a hill overlooking the farm and I took a nice photo of the farm. Then they took me for a ride in a car around the island and showed me the North Sea. It was very rocky and they asked me what I thought of it. I said it looked like the moon. They had a good laugh. Then we went for a walk by a school where they taught girls to be wives. They had cows for them to practice milking. They were just packing up to go home. I had my little radio along and I tuned it to the aircraft frequency and I could hear the tower of an airport talking in English. I let the boys listen to it and they were amazed. They didn't know that English was the universal language for aircraft. Then we got on the bus to go home, the bus passed a long line of cars that were waiting to get on the ferry and drove on first. Busses have the first preference and that is the way they get the people to ride the bus. On the way back to Bergen the bus went though a 3-mile tunnel.
May 27, 1968. My dad and I went to get a haircut. We asked Johan and Freda where to get one and they told us 20 minutes down the road. I asked the barber if he could talk English and he said, " A little." But I didn't find any words he could under-stand. My dad carried on quite a conversation with him
28, 1968. Johan, Freda, and Anneta skipped school to see
us off at the Bergen Airport. At 1pm we took off for
The plane refueled in Montreal and then off to Chicago where we went
customs. Then on to Green Bay where it was only 7
p.m. My dad's
watch said it was 2 am. Lee Hertwig was there and said that I
to go over to a Civil Air Patrol meeting at his brother's place in
Bay. I went to the meeting but was so sleepy that I don't
anything about it. It was a wonderful trip. The
perfect. Even the relatives said it was the longest they had seen
rain or fog. Johan used his whole vacation to be our guide
the relatives made it the best trip ever.
Returning home I found lots of photo work to get caught up with. My parents were getting tired of people coming in at all hours, six days a week. They started fixing up the small house with indoor plumbing and a new roof and chimney. The photo business became very busy in the late summer and fall with graduation portraits. After school started, I would be busy taking portraits in the evening. This is also the time the customers would come and pick up and place orders. Around December first all the candid wedding orders would come in and the newly weds wouldn't be too happy to hear that I couldn't get them finished till January or February. When color labs started up for candid wedding this helped my darkroom workload. The problem with early color pictures was that they faded if displayed. They held up quite well in an album.
Some displaced Cubans moved to Florida made albums and started a color lab. They called it Monkey Color. If you sent them the exposed film they would supply the album with pages for the photos. This worked fine for awhile but sometime the film would get lost in the mail or they had trouble with the processor. The wedding couple wouldn't be too happy to hear the bad news. My mother helped me, but my dad would have nothing to do with the business.
As for camera equipment, Murphy's law states that anything that can go wrong will eventually go wrong. I found this to be very true especially with new equipment.
Sometimes I found the airplane would come in handy. One Saturday morning I was getting ready to go to a wedding and received a phone call. They were having a barn raising on County A east of Lena. At first I told them that I didn't have the time to make it. Then I thought, I'll be there with the airplane in ten minutes. I had a camera loaded with black and white film that I used for taking photos of the bride and groom for newspapers. I grabbed it and ran out and opened the hanger doors, rolled the airplane out and away I went. It was easy to spot the barn under construction. I got the plane lined up with the road and went down to about 150 feet. Opened the window and took the picture. Then opened the throttle and headed back home and landed. The picture was in the paper that week. One thing interesting about the picture was a girl standing near the barn taking a picture of me.
I thought I was making enough money to get married. I found Janice McKay in Green Bay. She was teaching at Door County at that time. She had been teaching and living with her parents in Beloit and moved to Green Bay for a change of scenery. She invited me over to her apartment for a home cooked meal. When she went down the hall and brought the pans in from a room down the hall, I thought there was something fishy. She was bringing them from the home economics teacher's room. She explained that she started cooking on her stove and it didn't work. I later found this was true.
next weekend she drove over to our home to visit and meet my
parents. A few weekends later we flew down to Beloit to meet
folks. They must have been impressed because her father was
up in a suit when they met us at the Rock County Airport. We
married at St. Pats Church in Stiles, July 19, 1969, and son John
May 3, 1970.
My parents spent a lot of time in the summer in the camper. My mother was allergic to rag weed and found relief around Lake Superior. When they were up at Ely, Minnesota my mother slipped on some rocks on the lakeshore and broke her arm. My dad loaded her up in the camper and took her to the hospital. He forgot about an overhang at the hospital and hit it with the top of the camper and put a dent in it. When he came home that fall, he had it taped up. I got some Bondo and patched it up and painted it.
I made some trips in the airplane to visit them when they were up in the north woods. My mother had a cousin Sibby at Ely, Minnesota. I wrote a letter to her and she would tell the folks I was coming. I also called my cousin, Dolores, in Two Harbors that I would be dropping in. I picked a nice day before Labor Day weekend with a south wind. My first stop was Ashland Wisconsin where I gassed up. I didn't think I could get gas at Ely and I was right. I asked the fellow gassing the plane at Ashland if many made it over the Lake Superior and he said they didn't. It didn't look that bad so off I went to Port Wing climbing up to 5,000 feet. When I was over Lake Superior, a strange thing happened. I read about it happening to others over water. I became mesmerized. I just sat there and couldn't move. It was a strange feeling. Finally I realized I was heading toward Duluth. I was still traveling north with the wind. I made a right turn and there was Two Harbors. It didn't take me long to get there heading down hill with the wind. I circled around Delores house a few times and landed at the Two Harbors Airport. The Johnson family arrived shortly, and I unloaded my baggage and gave some of the family members a ride over their house.
Then I loaded my baggage back in the plane and was off for Ely. I found the airport and landed. There wasn't a soul around. I got out the tie downs and secured the airplane and waited. After a while, the folks arrived in the camper. They had came out earlier to check if I was there and then took a ride to see that part of Ely. I loaded my things in the back of the camper and drove into town and had lunch. One of the things I wanted to see was the seaplane base. This is where all the airplane activity was at Ely. It was from here that they would fly fishermen back to lakes in Minnesota and Canada that could be reached only by airplane. There were all kinds of seaplanes, large and small. They were busy loading and unloading at the docks.
Then we went over to cousin Sibbys where we spent the night. My bed was a bench on the side of the camper. During the day it was the seat for the kitchen table.
The next day it was very foggy, and we went to the estate where cousin Sibby worked. A wealthy businessman had bought all the land on the south side of a lake. As we drove in the entrance road it was bordered with rose bushes all red and pink. We found cousin Sibby at work in the laundry with the caretaker's wife. She was pressing sheets with a mangle. We took a walk around and found a large house with five cottages. The cottages were for the five children. Down by the lake was a boathouse stocked with fancy motor boats and a Finnish Sanana. After cousin Sibby and the caretaker's wife were through with their work, they took us through one of the cottages. It had a hardwood floor with a large rag rug they said was made by nuns. They said it weighed about a 1,000 pounds. The cottage had beautiful antique furniture that was hand carved. The caretaker's wife said that each cottage was decorated to the owner's décor. This one had a western theme. She told us about the bears trying to get in the houses in the fall. Also they lost the TV again last night. What happened was when they stayed up late and watched the TV the others on the power grid would shut off their lights and go to bed. This would cause the voltage to go up in the line causing the TV to blow. The businessman had clothing stores in Indiana and this was a good thing for the community. Besides giving jobs to the locals he paid $20,000 in property tax a year.
In the afternoon I drove the camper west of Ely to where the state was operating one of the abandoned iron ore mines as a tourist destination. When we parked, one of the docents came running out and said they had room for three more in the elevator and bring jackets. It was cool down there. The elevator was a rusty metal box with a cable hooked to it. We got in the elevator and the bottom dropped out. It started going down the shaft at 1000 feet a minute. It was banging and clanging and we could see the lights in the different levels flashing by. It was a long two minutes. I think the folks wondered what I had got them into. We reached the bottom, and they showed us the shaft where the drilling had stopped. They had drills in the end of the shaft. The stone was dark gray and was so strong that they needed no shoring in the shafts. There was still plenty of ore but was too expensive to get out using this method. I heard that under the city of Ely it was honeycombed with tunnels like this. We got in the metal car and up we went again at the same speed. They said when hauling ore they made the 2,000 feet in one minute.
The next morning it was cloudy and foggy again. The pilots at the seaplane base must have been unhappy with the flying conditions. We went to a park near Ely and took a walk through it. They had the various trees and shrubs labeled with their names. A hundred miles north made a big difference. My dad enjoyed telling us about the trees they didn't have up there, and the few different kinds they did have.
clouds broke up around noon and the airplanes at the seaplane
base were taking off and heading north. It looked like the weather
be good for heading back tomorrow.
My dad and I went to the barbershop in Ely for a haircut. The two barbers were keeping busy. While we were there, they received a telephone call that a local longhaired hippie was coming in for a haircut. One of the barbers became very excited and one was saying."I get him, he's mine." He couldn't wait to sheer his locks. Unfortunately we left before he showed up so we didn't get to see him.
The next morning the weather was perfect. We drove out to the airport and loaded my stuff and a large package of frozen fish. I put it in the back seat with the safety belt tight around it. I untied the airplane and checked it over. It had lots of gas and was just a little dusty. I wiped off the windshield and was ready to go. After saying good byes, I taxied to the south end of the field and off I went. I set the course for straight south and climbed up to 5,000 feet. Visibility was unlimited and I was really making good time with a north wind. Two Harbors and Lake Superior were soon under me. I could see the big round low of clouds east over Lake Superior. That was the foggy weather we had been having. To the west it was all clear and that was a high moving in. I was in a nice strong wind flow going south between them. After crossing the lake I set my course for southeast. About two thirds of the way home I found a layer of clouds. I flew over it hoping it was broken but no such luck. I turned back west, pulled out the carburetor heater and throttled back. I had to get under the clouds so I could tell where I was. The cloud layer was around 2,500 and I flew around the edge of it, and down under it at about 2000, feet. That’s where the bumps were. It was a good thing I had the fish strapped down. I opened the throttle and pushed in the carburetor heater and set course for south east again.
There were no landmarks, just forest below. After about a half hour of bouncing around I spotted a large radio tower on a hill. East of it was a river going south and a highway running east west through a town. It was Suring. I was crossing the 45th parallel half way between the Equator and the North Pole, thirty miles from home and right on course. About twenty minutes more I would be on the ground with the airplane in the hanger and wheeling the wheelbarrow loaded with fish and my baggage to the house.
After cousin Sibby left Ely my folks stayed at Little Girls Point on the east shore of Lake Superior. I took a one-day flight there and landed at Ironwood Airport. We visited the ski jump near there where they do ski flying in the winter. Another place they stayed was with Dick Heinbach. He had a home and land on the north shore of Lake Superior west of Two Harbors. Dick was running his grandfather's jewelry store business. My folks told me about Dick's daughter, who was about twelve years old at the time, she would stop in to see them every day and check on their welfare. In later years Dick's daughter was mysteriously murdered while she was walking on the lakeshore, and it remains an unsolved murder to this day.
In April 1975 my dad took my mother over to Stiles Jct. to see her mother and sister. During the visit my mother had a stroke. The last words she said," My purse is on the bureau in the bedroom." She must have known something bad was happening to her because her medical cards were there. She was in a coma for seven days. My dad and her mother, sister Exora, Janice, and I were there all the time we could spare hoping she would come out of it. Aunt Exoria was with her the night she died on April 14th.
At the visitation my dad found out how hard of hearing he was. The friends and relatives came up and talked to him and he couldn't hear them. My mother always talked loud to him and had relayed what other were saying. She also took care of his welfare and made the decisions of what they were going to do.
I remember the night of the funeral. I stayed with him quite late that night. He told me stories about Indians and buffalo that I had never heard before. The next day my Aunt Exora came and helped dispose of my mothers clothes. My dad found his life a lot different without my mother.
I stopped over to see him and he had a pencil and paper and was trying to do arithmetic problems. He found out he had forgotten how to do them. I took him to the lawyer's office soon after that so I could get power of attorney for him. That way I could write checks and pay his bills for him. He did quite well for himself. We worked in the woods together cutting wood in the winter. He had a strawberry patch he took care of in the summer. He had cataracts in his eyes and didn't want to have the operation to get them fixed. He remembered when my mother had them and had those glasses that looked like bull's eyes. Things had changed but he didn't want to bother with it.
One day when he was spading up his strawberry patch he found the wedding ring I had lost. I had lost it shortly after I was married. My mother was raising rabbits and then left me to take care of them when they were gone on a trip. I had to cut some grass for them with the mower and bring it to them every day. I had lost my ring in the grass clippings. When we would clean the rabbit hutch, we would dump the contents on the garden.
took a trip with the Manning's to the west coast and made
it to Doris's wedding. He took his 63 Rambler to Bill
Stiles to get an oil change and Bill advised him to get a new vehicle
it was so rusty. In 1980 he bought a Ford Currier Pickup
had some trouble understanding the workings of the controls on it and
son John, who was ten at the time, was showing him how to work
We sold the camper and I also sold the airplane. It was
expensive to operate.
John S Larson with his bowl of oatmeal.
Uncle Dave Truckey needed some help cutting trees for pulp
wood on his land and I helped him in exchange for him helping me build
an ultralight airplane in his garage. I believe it was the first
built in the town of stiles. I was also experimenting with
heaters. The first one I installed on my dad's
house. The last
solar heater I built in the back of the photo studio. The
was 24 feet long by four feet high. It worked quite
also tried experimenting with a hydroponics green house. I
get this to work well.
One day my dad had chest pains and I took him to the doctor. They put him in the hospital thinking he had a heart attack. I don't know what it was but it wasn't a heart attack. Dad thought it was a bee sting. They gave him something to calm his nerves and he was talking like a drunken sailor. He was coming up with things beyond imagination. When he came home he said they didn't feed him. I made him a big bowl of oatmeal and he was fine.
After that he couldn't fix his own meals, so Jan would make his meals and I would bring them to him. She would also clean his house and do the washing. He was trying to cut his own hair with disastrous results so I did it for him.
In the winter I heard the truck motor roaring and I went to see what was going on. He had the truck backed out of the garage and the back tires were smoking in the snow. I asked him where he was going? He said he was going to get the mail for Mrs. John. Mrs. John was a widow that lived half way up the hill on St. Marie Street in Duluth when I was small. I took the truck keys away from him. It was hard to do this to some one that had taught me how to drive.
One day I went over to see him and he was all dressed in his winter clothes and he wanted me to take him to the train so he could go home. I tried to explain that he was home. That spring he came knocking on our door at five in the morning. He said he saw ma walking in the orchard.
We found an opening for him in the Gillette nursing home. I remember taking him for his physical. They asked him who was president and he said Herbert Hoover. They also said he had hemorrhoids and was incontinent. After two and a half months a nurse was helping him to the toilet when he slipped, fell down, and broke his hip. I went to see him in the hospital and he told me a truck had hit him. They operated on the hip and he was taken back to the nursing home. I went to see him but all he could say was "Hi Jack."
I was taking wedding photos in Marinette when he died. They called Jan and said he was going so she called Fr. Jim from St. Patrick's Church in Stiles. He was with him when he died. I told Fr. Jim the story of him wanting to take the train home. Fr. Jim said, "He finally made it home". I remember picking my dad up after working at the paper mill and driving by the funeral home. He always said, "people are dying to get in there." We buried him along side of my mother in St. Patrick's cemetery in Stiles.
Larson Lane 2 and 1/2 miles east of Oconto Falls is named after my dad; and Larson airstrip is named after me. On some maps it is called Larson Studio.
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