1930 (?)

      The thirties started off badly. Late in 1929 Dad got a cold. Then he developed some severe bumps on his neck which in later days I understood were problems with the lymph glands. This gradually progressed and was diagnosed as Hodgkins' Disease. This meant nothing to me at the time and I don't remember ever being let in on what was happening. But after a trip or two to the Mayo Clinic and to St. John's Hospital in Fargo ND I began to get a clue that all was not well in our house. So I was not totally surprised when someone came and got me out of the third grade and brought me home because he had died on 6 October 1930 at St. John's Hospital in Fargo ND. I think the custom of having the open casket in our dining room is barbaric. It is too bad that that is one of the strongest memories I have of him.
      A couple years before he tried to teach me to whistle. I have a mental picture of me on my knees, elbows on his knees, him in his easy chair, trying to teach me to pucker up and blow.
      I also heard somewhere about a time somewhat earlier that I had climbed up the cabinets in the kitchen which was a no-no. Mom spanked me and I went crying to Dad. He comforted me and said things like, "She didn't mean to hurt you!" while Mom fumed in the kitchen.
      There are several memories of an indefinite time about here. I remember being at Uncle JC's in the winter. I took my skis up to the water tower hill behind his house.
      Skis for kids in those days were very primitive, They were the usual wood slat with the turned up forward end. But the foot area had a rubber patch that one stood on with their foot in a leather loop with an adjustable, belt-like leather strap. One really had little or no directional control. It worked reasonably well in snow but on this day the snow was not new and had been converted to a hard crust by days of winds. My skis would not break into this crust and as I slid down the hill on top of this crust it was like trying to ski on ice and I turned sideways as I continued sliding down the hill.
      Eventually the black rubber patch on the ski would get covered with ice and whatever little control one might have had was gone!

      I remember one day when one of the local fathers tied ropes on his rear bumper and drove slowly around town with several of us holding onto the ropes behind. In Norway they did something similar but behind a horse and it was called skijoring!

1931 (?)

      My sister Helen had a bicycle. She hated it because they made her get a boy's bicycle so I could "inherit" it. The time came when I was about nine when it became mine. I got on it in the street in front of our house. I suppose someone pushed me till I got going. I went north for two and a half blocks, got turned to the west for a block and then turned south, all the time wobbling back and forth but staying upright and in the saddle! I had gone about three blocks south when a Model T Ford came around the corner and turned toward me. He saw me wobbling down the street so he stopped dead in the road, giving me a chance to miss him. But the more I tried to go around him, the more the bicycle decided to go toward him. I finally hit him right in the middle of the radiator. The driver just laughed, he knew what was going on.
      We didn't have curbs or paved streets, they were gravel. In the fall when the leaves fell, they would be raked together and put out at the edge of the street in a big pile. We kids would run and jump in them and play with them. Finally they would be raked back into a pile and set on fire. I don't think anyone that participated in such a ritual will ever forget the fragrance of burning leaves. And it is always associated with fall and the near advent of snow.
      We had a number of games we would play after supper. It would be getting dark. One of them was "Prisoner's Base" and I have no recollection of how to play it. Another was "Keep 'em down!". We would put anyone that was standing down on the ground. Someone would get up and several others would grab him and pull him down. We often played this in Cruden's back yard, our next door neighbor at the corner. I don't know why we played there except that it was large and open, no obstructions.

      Somewhere about this time Mother and Uncle JC recognized that the store couldn't support two families in the depression. It was not possible to deny medicines to families that needed them, but they often had little or no money. So they would pay with the hind half of a cow. Unfortunately, the Rexall distributor required hard money to replace the medications.
      I remember my mother working for a week, canning the hind quarter of a cow and making soap out of the fat. She poured it out on a surface and cut it up into rectangles about 3 x 4 inches and put them in cigar boxes. We used them for several years. When she would do a laundry in our electric Maytag washer with a wringer, she would take a paring knife and shave this soap into the washer. Irene was trying to help one day and got her hand caught in the wringer. She was about to have her thumb bent back when mother got there and tripped the emergency release.
      She and Uncle JC finally figured out an equitable solution. He took the stock and we took the building. He then paid us rent, $45 a month. This doesn't sound like a lot but it was then.
      We eventually sold the store to Howard Cole but I don't remember anything else about it.

      We had four teachers for the first six grades in LaMoure. Mrs. Pierce taught first grade, Mrs. Kirst taught second and third, Miss Rogers taught fourth and Miss Wendelbo taught fifth and sixth.
      I guess I was a bit of an insufferable goody two-shoes. Mrs. Kirst would have to keep one class occupied while she was working with the other. One time she had us in the second grade writing the numbers from one to a hundred to keep us busy. I wrote one to ten vertically ten times, then went back and put in the ten ones, the ten twos etc and finished in far shorter time than she planned.
      One of these times she was drilling the third grade on pronunciation of a set of words she had on the blackboard. I listened to several recitations, bored. I finally raised my hand and said, "Mrs. Kirst, I can pronounce those words." She told me to go ahead and I did. Insufferable little second grader!
      We had a game we would play at recess. Everybody would line up at the edge of the lot. Someone would be "It", out in the center. He would holler, "Pom pom pullaway, Come away or I'll pull you away." At which point everybody would run to the other side and avoid being tapped by the person that was "It". If you got tapped, then you were "It" also. Pretty soon of course there were more in the center than at the edge. At which point the game would collapse and start over.


      When I was in sixth grade we had a couple events I remember vividly. We must have been a hard bunch to handle and maybe Miss Wendelbo had been at it too long. Ray Carroll's right elbow was permanently frozen at a right angle due to some improper treatment years before when it was broken. He was a feisty kid and when Miss Wendelbo had had enough of him she would go down the aisle and grab him by the hair. One day he came to school with his hair cut so short she couldn't grab it. She went down to grab his hair, stopped, momentarily nonplussed, then grabbed his ear. At which point he wished he had his hair back.
      One day a number of the boys were acting up and Miss Wendelbo lined about six of them up against the blackboard at the front of the room with their right hands out in front of them. She went down the line back and forth with a ruler, giving their hands a good whack as she went by. The ruler was one of those with a little brass strip embedded in the edge and it began to draw blood. All six of the boys were absolutely impassive which probably made her hit harder and she began to draw blood. I remember that one of them was the tallest kid in the class, "Toad" Beeber.
      I don't remember the aftermath but we never saw Miss Wendelbo again. They said she had a nervous breakdown.

      My mother had to do something for us to survive the Depression. She made several trips to Fargo in our 1926 Buick. One time she got three parking tickets in one day. When she paid the fine at the Police Station the third time, she smiled and said that if she had to come in again she was going to bring her suitcase.
      The upshot of her travels was to buy a gift shop in what I call America's first Mall. Husome's Ready-to-wear had a store on the east side of Broadway, just north of NP Avenue (First Avenue) in Fargo. There were three independent businesses, the Ready-to-wear shop, Ida Hagen's millinery shop and mother's gift shop. She had a lot of very nice things. She sold lingerie and gifts. We still have a Swiss carved pair, an old man and an old woman, sitting in their chairs.

      We moved to Fargo on 18 July 1934, at the height of the drought! We stopped once by a field of wheat. I went out into the field and picked one of the heads and rolled it between my hands. There was no wheat, just chaff. It was already brown and very short, about half the size of properly ripened wheat. They got no crop that year.
      As we approached Casselton ND our engine overheated and we stopped by the side of the road. A man coming in the other direction stopped to help. He went to open the top of the radiator. There was a thermometer ornament on top and there was a small latch (I think it is technically called a pawl). He unlatched it and it was under pressure of course. It spouted a bunch of hot rusty water all over his nice white shirt. He was very angry but not at us! He went back to his car and drove off. We waited for a time then drove a few more miles and stopped to cool it off. After several of these we made it to a garage in Casselton. The mechanic was a round jolly man, quite vastly overweight as I remember. He undid the latches on the right side of the hood and lifted the hinged half hood on top of the other half. Then he started to laugh. He shook like the proverbial bowl of jelly as he pulled out handfuls of what looked like first aid gauze. Apparently the fan belt had completely come apart. He put on a new fan belt and we went on our way!

      We moved into our new small house. It had a laundry chute which I thought was not only cute but very efficient! Laundry chutes have become a standard joke in our house after I suggested we install one in the front hall. The laundry room is immediately behind that wall.
      I remember one time mother must have been gone. The three of us, Irene, Helen and myself were somewhat worried, not really afraid. But I remember taking some kind of weapon to bed with me, I think a knife!
      Shortly after that we moved to 916 1/2 North Broadway. This was a second floor with an outside access. There was a large screened in second floor porch at the front. The inside stairs were narrow and had a right angle turn at the top. They could not take our big upright Ivers and Pond piano up the stairs. So they rigged a boom and lifted it up and over the rear porch of the downstairs and got it in that way. There must have been a door that I don't remembter.
      There was a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and a bath. I have little memory of the layout. We must have had adequate sleeping space, even for a guest. Aunt Lillian came and visited for a time. I remember her and her Minneapolis Tribune Sunday crosswords that she had glued into an old telephone book. That was the last time I saw her. She did a lot of genealogy but never passed any of it on. Neither of her two children had children and they are all gone now. I think she may have found out about the Indian in our background and that would have mortified her. I have been unable to locate any of her data.

      I don't remember exactly when we moved again to 703 1/2 4th Avenue North at the corner of Roberts Street. It was one of two apartments above the Hanson Funeral Home. The Solems lived in the other, a man and his wife and two daughters. The brother, Tom Solem, was the mortician and lived next door to the funeral home. Irene and Helen slept on a Murphy bed in the living room. Mother slept in the bedroom and I think I probably slept on a sofa. When Mother died, I got the bedroom so I could "study" since I was in High School and Irene and Helen had friends over and they played the piano at any hour. I learned to study in a boiler factory. There was a breakfast nook which also served as a game place, cards, etc.
      Helen had a job at Investor's Syndicate in the First National Bank Building, the sixth and top floor. Both Helen and Irene went to the Interstate Business College. We were still living there when mother sent me to LaMoure in 1936 when she went up to Aunt Sophie's to die. That fall I went to the ninth grade at Roosevelt Junior High school.
      The next fall I went to Central High school. We had a kind of complicated arrangement for a time. I got home first at noon and cooked dinner. Helen came a bit later, ate and cleaned up while I went back to school. I cooked a lot of rice. Especially the first time. I knew that it expanded on cooking but had no idea how much. I wound up with several pans of rice by the time it was done! I would fry an egg easy and put it on the rice, Not bad.

      About this time I started delivering packages for all three shops. I got 10 cents a delivery whether it was across the street or four miles away. I have a lot of memories of these deliveries.
      But first I needed a better bicycle. I got a good one from a local hardware store for $35.00. It was the typical bicycle of the time with balloon tires and a wide saddle seat. I liked it very much. I would take the New Departure brake apart, clean it, grease it with vaseline and reassemble it. It has always been my belief that this involvement with mechanical things at an early age is the reason American fighter pilots became so good, so fast. We adapted to high powered machines as a kind of natural next step up!
      I made several memorable deliveries, particularly those in our winters. I knew where every Mom and Pop store was in town. They always had a hot Ben Franklin type stove where I could warm up. They got to know me and let me warm up without ever buying anything. Like most other people I rarely had any money.
      I was given a pair of deliveries to make late one afternoon. They were in the southwest corner and the southeast corner of Fargo. It was probably about four miles. The snow was so deep from a very recent snow and even the sidewalks were too deep to ride. I carried the bicycle for about three of the four miles. It took me four hours and I got 20 cents.
      Mother had advanced the $35 to buy the bicycle. She kept a little tablet behind the counter and when I got paid by the other shops I would bring her the money, she would get out the tablet, enter the money and calculate the new balance. I remember the day it went below $10. I was very happy about that!
      One of the most memorable deliveries was, as I remember it, a Christmas Eve for Mother. It was around 6PM, closing time. It was a corner shelf intended as a Christmas present. A storm was building and Mother said that I didn't have to do it. But in true Royal Mountie tradition, I said that I would deliver it because it was a Christmas present. There was a very strong wind howling out of the west. I had to go ten blocks north, crosswind. I held the cornershelf up to shield my face. When I got to Eleventh Avenue I turned into the wind but I could not ride against the wind. So I pushed the bike across the street and dropped it in a snowdrift. I walked the five blocks into the wind, delivered the package and walked back to the bicycle. The snow was drifting and it was almost covered. I dug it out and started home. I had to go about six blocks south, this time with no protection for my face. I got to our upstairs apartment at 703 4th Avenue North and my sister Helen opened the door. She told me to go back outside and put snow on my face because the whole right side was frozen! Which I did.

      I was coming home from school one day in spring. There was still ice and some snow. I think it was around 8th Street and probably 8th Avenue. Again my memory tells me there were still some trolley tracks in the street.There was a slightly low spot in the street and a little shallow pool of water filled it, probably 10-12 feet long and 5-6 feet wide. I was not concerned so I went to go through it. What I didn't know was that under the water was a sheet of ice, extremely slick. I got halfway through, the bike went out from under me and left me sitting in the midddle of the puddle.

      I should mention here that I consider myself an expert on frozen flesh and its treatment. Snow is the ONLY way to thaw it out with no after effects. A man in the apartment across the hall froze his ears once and thawed them out in the usual warm way. They turned red itched him for more than a week. I never had an aftereffect using snow. And I know I froze my nose at least one hundred and probably more times and thawed with snow. One time I froze my nose twice on one delivery. I found out something else one time. Don't blow your nose. The phlegm is warm and keeps it from freezing. if I blew my nose out there it would immediately freeze!
      A word of explanation as a chemist goes like this. The freezing point of water is decreased when something is dissolved in it. It is a very small amount, a small part of a degree usually. The fluid in the cells has a freezing point just barely below 32 deg F. Snow, being pure water, has a freezing point of exactly 32 deg F. So when you put the snow on the frozen flesh, the flesh is being warmed by something that is only a small fraction of a degree warmer and the thawing is very slow and the cells can accomodate it. But when you use water or warm water, The temperature difference is too great and the thawing is so fast that the cells can't handle it and they burst, causing redness and itching.

      One night my sisters wanted some caramel apples and mother needed a loaf of bread. So I got on my bicycle and went downtown and bought three caramel apples. Then I headed for the little Mom and Pop store at 10th Avenue and Fourth Street N that I knew would be open. Fourth Street was not well lighted around 8th Avenue and there was a broad crack in the street that I didn't see, My front wheel dropped in it, wedged and the bicycle rotated around the front axle and I hit the street with my face. I broke a small chunk off one of my upper incisors. I picked myself up and could feel the break with my tongue. I continued and bought the loaf of bread and went home. At home they said the nerve was hanging out. It was beginning to hurt. I don't remember what happened next but I got to a dentist, probably the next day, and he patched up with some kind of filler but left the break. I had the break until the summer of 1942. I didn't want Army dentists working on me so I had Dr. Bill Kostelecky fix my mouth before I went in the service. He made a chunk of gold to fill it in properly. When he tried it out it fit so well he had trouble getting it off. Then he glued it in and it lasted for probably 40 years!

      I was very good at delivering packages. There were a lot of short streets with funny names in Fargo and Moorhead (twin cities). I never failed to deliver a package. I was given packages when others failed to deliver because they knew I would get the job done.
      But I got my indoctrination into the power of business owners. They can do pretty much what they want to do. There is no requirement that they be fair. It was an important lesson to learn at such an early age. The Ready-to-wear shop decided with no explanation that they didn't need me anymore. I don't know why. I had served them very well.
      Then one night at 6 PM, closing, I checked with the milliner and she said she had no more deliveries. I went home. A friend of mine asked to borrow my bike and I let him. Later the milliner called and asked if I could make another delivery. I told her that she had said there would be no more and that I had loaned my bike to a friend, She said that I didn't need to come in the next morning. I was fired twice at age 14! Neither firing was correct or reasonable. But the boss always has the big stick!

      When we moved to Fargo in 1934, we lived at 1314 6th Avenue South. This meant I would be attending Agassiz Junior High School. When I enrolled, my records hadn't arrived yet. So I was placed in 7B3. I think that was the lowest in the school. A few days later when my records arrived. the principal came down and got me and placed me in 7B1. After three weeks into the Fall session we moved to 916 1/2 North Broadway. This automatically transferred me to Roosevelt Junior High. When my grades came out at the end of the first six week period my English teacher, Sigrid Oien, gave me 4 D's, a rather crushing blow. She really shouldn't have made such a harsh judgement on such insufficient evidence. It was very discouraging to a new student. I did OK there for the almost three years I was there. We used to have spelling bees in the English classroom. I have always been a good speller.
      I took up the clarinet in seventh grade. We had a chorus. I remember how funny Lloyd McCord(?) sounded when his voice changed to bass. It kind of wavered back and forth.
      I would walk to school in midwinter, about ten blocks, at 7 AM, in the dark, for band practice.

      My Dad was afraid of heights. I remember when we were at the Black Hills, the whole family went up to the top of Harney Peak. He looked over a precipice, went back against a small wall, sat down and didn't move till we were ready to leave. I didn't want that to happen to me. So I used to do something quite stupid as I came home in the afternoon. There was an underpass on 10th Street north, under the railroad track at what would have been 5th Avenue. It had a three foot high railing made of 2x4's. I often forced myself to walk across this railing. It was about 25 feet down to brick on the outside. To justify this, it seemed to have worked. I still have caution but I don't mind reasonable heights. See: http://www.charlies-web.com/genealogyB/txtx249.html Yes, my wife was hollering at me to get down off the roof!

      One morning I was walking to school against a stiff north wind. About a block from school I stopped into one of those Mom and Pop stores to get a pencil or something. I heard them talking about the fact that it was 39 below outside. I almost froze to death in that last block.
      One day, a young man came across the street from the SAE Fraternity house and introduced himself to me. It was Gordon Brandes, older brother of Beatrice Brandes that was in my class in LaMoure for the first six grades. I'm sure this had an influence on my pledging SAE in the fall of 1940.
      I was delivering some packages, probably hats, one day on my bicycle. I was going up 10th Street North in Fargo, 10th Avenue as I remember. At this corner, 10th Street jogs about ten feet to the right. I was next to the curb and there was a car along side me. A car was waiting at the stop sign on the right waiting for the car to pass. Then I guess he saw the right turn signal from the car alongside me. I didn't see it. The car beside me started to turn right and the other car started through the stop sign. It caught me by surprise and I went in front of the turning car and then jogged in front of the other car without getting hit by either. It gave me a good scare and I stopped and sat on the grass a half block up the street to gather my wits!

      As I remember, I had "Shop" all three years. I had wood shop in the 7th and 9th grades and metal shop in the eighth. I remember making a cribbage board and a foot stool in wood shop. I also made a pencil tray. We had to gouge out the pencil tray. First I had to plane the board, flat. I had a problem rather like adjusting the legs on a four leg table! One corner was always low so I had at it again. Then another corner was low! Got it finally.

      The only thing I remember from metal shop was making a wall dispenser for one of those old fashioned large box of matches. We had to cut out the pattern from a flat piece of galvanized iron. Then we had to bend it and finally we had to solder the joints and paint it black.

      There were a number of pretty girls. I had a slight crush on one called Helen Heggeness. I thought the prettiest one was Jean Parizek. My name was linked to Bonnie Reitan in a school paper, about this time. I think they liked the sound of the pun, "Charles Dills has been doing a lot of Reitan lately." As usual, no matter that it wasn't true.


      Before we left LaMoure, mother had been trying to move a mattress all by herself. I don't know whether she was going up or down stairs but she lost control and fell. I believe she hurt herself but nobody told me. I've always wondered if it had any relation to her breast cancer a few years later.
      In the spring of 1936 my mother was not feeling well. I think she knew she had breast cancer but never said anything to me. I don't know if she said anything to either of my sisters. Sometime that spring I walked into the room of our small apartment, she was standing there, stripped to the waist. There was an ugly red blotch on her right breast. Later I understood. I think she was trying to tell me but frankly I was too young or too dumb to understand. Later, when she was having trouble getting out of bed she sent me down to LaMoure to Uncle JC and Aunt Sophie took her to Grand Forks to live with her at 1413 University Avenue.
      It began to occur to me what was happening. I began to realize I would never see her again. On 29 August 1936 Bob Jim and I were returning from a movie at the Rex Theater when we were met by his mother, Grace. She was crying and told me that mother had died. I was not surprised and I don't remember crying. I had done my crying earlier.
      I need to tell what I heard about her last days. She was in great pain but after seeing the money disappear with Dad's illness, she didn't even consult a doctor. She was what I call a fierce immigrant. She was small but very strong. Strong enough to emigrate from Norway to this country without knowing English when she was only 17. She was not going to spend the little money we had when she knew she was leaving three children, 14, 20 and 22 that she knew they would need every cent she could leave. This must have been almost excruciating as the physical pain.

      I have no religion. I think they are all basically evil. They are the greatest con job ever. If you look around the world to see where strangers are killing strangers and you will find a religion at the base of it.

      I make one small limited exception. I understand that she had a phone number that she could call any time, day or night. There would be a comforting voice that would read to her or talk to her and help her through the pain. It was a Christian Science number. I don't agree with anything else they do but this was a wonderful service and I thank them for it. You comforted her in her last days.

      After losing Dad in 1930, then mother in 1936 we decided to have a group picture of the rest of us to send around at Christmas. A belated realization of the ephemeral nature of life.


      We had started a Cub Scout pack in La Moure. Bob Jim's father was the Cubmaster. I remember a meeting in our basement. The only other thing I remember was his watch, one with a rather fancy chime.

      When we moved to Fargo I joined the Boy Scouts. It was the Elk's troop, #17. We met in the Elk's Lodge at 8th Street and 1st Avenue north as I remember. We used the pool tables and loved sitting in those big monstrosities, the chairs made using all kinds of deer and moose antlers. We were in the middle of the depression and while we tried hard to keep things going, it was difficult. We took hikes out to things like the Gooseberry Mountains, small hills south of Moorhead. We would build fires, do a little cooking and tie lots of knots.

First National Boy Scout Jamboree, Washington DC.

      I attended one little Jamboree in Valley City ND but I only remember pitching the tent and throwing hatchets at a tree. I eventually became a Star Scout and had enough merit badges for Life Scout but never applied for it.

      The first national Boy Scout Jamboree was held in Washington DC the summer of 1937. Somehow we scraped together the $75 it cost and I went. I well remember the train car. I thought it was taken out of storage after its last trip as part of Lincoln's cortege. It had swinging lanterns and a high ceiling. It seemed to be very old. But it got us there.
      This was a grand adventure. We were camped very near a highway cloverleaf at the Virginia end of the 14th Street Bridge right next to the Hoover Airport. This has all been replaced by the Pentagon.

      As I recall, the ground was quite rocky and that it rained the first or second night. We had a time when the shallow stakes all let go and our tent collapsed. They were very good to the scouts there, lots of special deals. Eight of us would go off sight seeing until we got lost. Then we would hail a cab, pay him a dime apiece and he would take us back to our camp. I spent a lot of time at the airport. I saw a lot of wonderful planes.

      There was a Boeing 247 with a negative pitch windshield, and a Spartan Executive. And American Airlines was flying a beautiful, low wing, dark red and dark blue Stinson Trimotor. Several of us took a ride in the Goodyear blimp for a special scout price of one dollar! I believe it was the Enterprise. The Smithsonian was a wonderful place. I even saw the Spirit of Saint Louis, a real treat for me! Perhaps you can detect a residue of that enthusiasm!

      We had a wonderful program probably on the last evening. All I can remember now is that there was a singer by the name of Lanny Ross!
      One time the senators and representatives from North Dakota invited us to a watermelon feed. We were impressed when our high and mighty representatives from Washington went around cutting watermelons for us and giving us all we could eat.

      We had the inevitable "formations" of course and it was hot. Some of the scouts passed out from the heat. I don't remember whether or not I was one of them. On one formation we lined up along a road, possibly Constitution Avenue and President Roosevelt came by with escort in a big black touring car with the top down to "Review the Troops!"

      I used to take Sauny down to Haines Point, the juncture of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. It was a quiet and peaceful place and a great place for a round or two of miniature golf!

      Another special event was the welcome extended by a cousin. My Aunt Sophie married a man later in life who had five grown daughters. One of them was Alida Gunderson. I don't know how she contacted me or how she knew I was there, but contact me she did. She invited me to a dinner and a movie. It is even more impressive when you know how little we knew of each other. I had a wonderful evening and I was most flattered and impressed. I am embarrassed to believe that I did not thank her adequately. I don't remember the homeward ride to North Dakota at all.

      Sometime in the middle thirties I finally got enough "extra" money to indulge myself in a speedometer for my bicycle. I was very pleased with this purchase and was very proud of this accessory! One day I went to a movie at the Grand Theater with a couple friends. There was a rather narrow passageway on the west side of the theater where we parked our bikes. When we came out of the theaer and reclaimed our bicycles I discovered someone had apparently taken a rock and smashed my speedometer. I will never understand how a person can do such a thing to a stranger.

Central High School, Fargo, North Dakota
1937 - 1940

     I started at Fargo Central High School in the Fall. My homeroom teacher was Mr. Krueger, one of the two chemistry teachers. I don't remember too many of my fellow classmates but Willard Dodge, Aaron Shore, Robert Meyers, Jack Frost and Sam Hess were among them. Robert, Sam and Jack were airplane gas model builders also.
      As a matter of fact, Robert and I went to a local printer and had some letterheads made. We became "wholesalers" of model supplies so we could get the discount.
      We operated out of his basement. We would order model glue by the gallon and package it by the halfpint. Our "customers" got a break and so did we. Money was very scarce in those days.
      In the winter we would put a couple cokes in the snow outside the basement window. When we were thirsty we would bring one in and take off the cap. It would freeze solid when the pressure was released and we would have to wait till it melted to drink it.
      Neither of us had much money so it was "necessary" for us to be able to indulge the hobby. I was able to buy a Brown Jr. Model B engine and a "Buccaneer" gas model. It was a sturdy model and looked rather like the local lightplanes at the airport. I finished it and had it at the Boy Scout booth at the state fair at the Fargo Airport one fall. I was doing a little "fine tuning" in the booth and it did collect a reasonable number of interested spectators. I remember an older woman that hung around the back of the crowd until every one was gone. Then she sidled up, looked at the 54 inch wingspan model and said, very tentatively and unbelievingly, "How many people go up in that?". I gently told her that it was designed to fly by itself. She scurried away in a hurry.
      I think this was the time they had a "Batman" that was going to perform. He would leap off an airplane, spread his arms which had cloth sewn from the arms to the side of his body and he was supposed to glide around and finally use his parachute.
      I was standing beside Manny Marget who was the sports announcer and general announcer at the local radio station in Moorhead MN. He had a euphonius voice and a gift of gab and could rattle on at great speed. We watched the plane climb up on a rather miserable day. There were clouds and it was kind of misty. Instead of going up to the usual 12,000 feet, they only went to about 8,000. Apparently the Batman got out on the wing and apparently slipped, hit his head and proceeded to fall. He was unconcious all the way down. It takes about a minute to fall 8,000 feet and Manny was shrieking into his microphone the whole way. I watched in disbelief as he tumbled, end over end, finally disappearing beyond a small building. Everybody was stunned. It was a little like the broadcast of the Hindenburg crash. I heard later that he had landed in a plowed field, bounced 12 feet and that he had broken every bone in his body. It is said that the terminal velocity of an average human body is about 128 mph, 180 feet per second.

      Occasionally on a nice weekend day we would go by the butcher and buy a nickel's worth of steak. It was a reasonably sized piece in those days. Then we would go out to the mounds south of town, along the Red River, locally known as the Gooseberry Mountains (a gross over-description). We would build a fire, get a green stick and cook our steak. One time one of our people brought along a can of beans and put it at the edge of the fire to warm up. He lost most of the beans and learned some elementary physics when the can exploded!
      Being rather small, about 5' 7 1/2" and 128 pounds I was not a candidate for any of the sports that were available. That probably kept me from any real interest in them as well. So, being a bass clarinet player, I gravitated toward the music department. We had a very good music director, Mr. Leon Sorlien. I was in the band, the orchestra, glee club and chorus and the boys' quartet along with Bernie Holritz, tenor, Bob Baldwin, baritone and Paul Madison, bass. I was the second tenor. There was some sort of local "competition" we were entered in. The only thing I remember is a judge's comment that the second tenor had a nice vibrato. I had no vibrato, I was scared. I would say I had a little better than average range. No one of us had great solo voices but we blended very well. There was a State "Competition" every year. We went to Grand Forks one year. There were no winners, you were judged and given certain ratings like very good, good etc. That way several groups could get the top rating. We always felt we won though. The local radio station had a half hour program every afternoon from 4 to 4:30 showcasing talent from the competitions of that day. That day the program started out with a number from a trumpet quartet and then we did the rest of the half hour. We sang both of the contest songs and both of the glee club songs and some others we had worked up.

      The local high school hangout at that time was the Powers Coffee Shop at the Powers Hotel at 4th and Broadway in Fargo. Lloyd Collins was at the Hammond Organ and the chanteuse was a tall, good-looking blond with a sultry voice named Norma Egstrom. However, for show purposes she took the name of Peggy Lee. We would order a coke and fries and nurse them for a couple hours. I never understood why the management put up with us deadbeats. But then again, nobody had much money in those days.
      Peggy knew about our quartet and more than once when we were all there she would get us up for a couple numbers. And one night, she got all four of us, one at a time, to sing a solo. I sang a popular tune of the time called "Careless" I was scared to death!       I never entered my bass clarinet in the state contest because it was in a "Miscellaneous Instruments" category and I would have to compete against more flamboyant instruments such as the flute. Fat chance of "winning"" there. We had a lot of great performers, Gordon Magill on the French Horn, Marshall Thompson on the trombone and Wendell (or was it Duane) Pyle on the flute. Georgia Tainter was marvellous on the violin and had a teacher who was a member of the Minneapolis Symphony. She gave it up to become a very good professional golfer. Beverly Hanson was good on the bassoon and she too later became a professional golfer. Both of them were in a brief scene of the movie "Pat and Mike" which I always felt owed a bit of a debt to Babe Didrickson (later Zaharius).

      And then there was Patricia Brown, "Patty". She was a wizard on both the clarinet and the tenor and alto saxophones. As a matter of fact, she would go to the National Band Camp at Interlochen MI every summer and be their first chair! And oh, was I smitten. I was "stuck on her" for years. She wrote me when I was overseas and I don't remember getting anything from anyone else. I named my P-40 after her, calling it the "Patty B II". A picture of it can be seen here. ------>

      It was years before I got over it. I think I should admit that I never really got completely over her. But we both realize now in our later years that it would not have worked. I managed to find her ten or fifteen years ago. She had a rather unfortunate life but is well situated now, living comfortably in her own home in Portland OR. She is one of the several reasons why I did not get married until I was 39. My wife Sauny has met her and likes her. As a matter of fact, while visiting her one time, she sidled up to Sauny and with a smile said, "I did you a favor!" Sauny responded with a twinkle, "I'm not so sure about that!" She barely leaves the house now, being perfectly content to stay there. She enjoys a couple friends that come over once a week to play recorder trios.

      Back to high school, I took chemistry from Mr. Nerhus. He wanted me to go to the Colorado School of Mines and become a chemist. I remember an event in Chemistry lab. When you do a test tube reaction and the reaction produces a gas, one of the favorite questions in the lab report is what did it smell like. But we were taught how to sample a gas. We were supposed to bring the test tube up to perhaps six inches from our nose and gently waft the gas to your nose with your hand. You were not supposed to just jam the test tube against your nose and inhale. But one of the students, Robert Kaess did just that with the test tube that was producing chlorine gas. As he inhaled, he went over flat on his back on the floor. His dad was a doctor I so supposed that helped.

      I had aviation in my head. I eventually did become a chemist, partly influenced by him but I suspect mostly by my dad and uncles who were all Rexall pharmacists. As a young boy I would see all those bottles lined up saying Potassium Bromide Merck, Sodium Bicarbonate Merck, etc. I thought Merck was part of the chemical name.
      As a matter of fact, when I was about five, Dad or Uncle JC would put the ingredients on that little porcelain slab with the blue figure on the lower left corner and I, sitting on a tall stool, would mix the salve with a spatula until it met their approval. They did keep a watchful eye on me. Once a year my sisters, my cousin Mary and I would be placed at a bench in the store with a pile of white powder on a piece of waxed paper (?) and proceed to fill thousands of capsules. These were local formulations for headaches and other discomforts.


      I think it was somewhere in this year that Helen went on a blind date with Rollie Holsen. He had been at loose ends not really considering his future. He would work for the week with some friends and then they would go spend the money down at Detroit Lakes, probably doing a bit more drinking than Helen was prepared to accept. He wanted to go steady as he was smitten! She said if he wanted to drink he didn't need to come around anymore. They would double date, the other couple would have a few drinks and he and Helen would have cokes. He accepted the restriction. He went to the Insterstate Business School, got wonderful handwriting which was almost indistinguishable from hers. He was over at the house we had moved to at 119 10th Street North in Fargo, every night for the next year, at least, doing homework! My memory of this time is of him sitting at the table slaving over the work. He finally proposed, I knew nothing of what was going on at the time, I was "just a kid". They got married on the 4th of July 1941. I will describe that later.

      I was very attracted to modern classical music, the melodic kind not the rattling dishpans. I attended a number of local concerts. I remember hearing Paul Robeson and Sergei Rachmaninoff. I also remember getting a ticket to the Minneapolis Symphony with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting. I got my seat late and there was a single seat in the front row. When I got there I was in the midst of five or six of the most influential classical music people in the two towns. (Fargo/Moorhead.) They played a great concert. They of course were encouraged by the good music starved people in the audience to play at least one encore. I suspect there were several but one created a sensation. It was before people had heard anything about the Gayne Ballet or Aram Khachaturian. They played a piece they called the Sword Dance but which is now called the Sabre Dance. It is an electrifying piece, particularly the first time you've heard it. My memory says that by the end of the piece most of the audience was standing and the applause was thunderous! Later it would be heard in most jukeboxes! It became extremely popular at the time.

      A very dangerous event took place while I was returning from one of the concerts in Festival Hall at the North Dakota Agricultural College (now the State University). I was on my bicycle and it was dark, probably well after 9 PM. The highway that passed the college was also 13th street and was pretty much like other streets in the area. There were two lanes, one north and one south. Traffic was horrendous as the concert let out. There was a block of parked cars, all dark and apparently unoccupied. I hugged them rather closely because of the stream of cars on my left. About two thirds of the way down the block someone in a car that had been sitting there in the dark, all of a sudden, decided to open the driver's door into traffic! It was just as I was passing and they hit my handlebar and jackknifed my bicycle, throwing me out into traffic, landing on my hand and knees. Fortunately the drivers behind me were able to miss me. I think I had a good chance of being killed. I grabbed my bicycle, got on and continued on my way. A day or two later I saw a doctor who told me there was nothing he could do about the lump on my right knee. He said it might bother me later, I had arthroscopic surgery on both knees about 40 years later!

      Irene or Helen would wake me in the morning to go to school by pinching my nostrils shut. Then they would duck quickly because I would come out with a roundhouse. They always managed to duck. I have always been supersensitive about anything around my nose.
      Sam Hess was a good friend in High School. He was a premier builder of gas model airplanes. He made a beautiful one called the Clipper. It had a high wing on a pylon. One day we were at the airport. It was a quiet and lazy airport where they didn't mind if a couple kids came out to fly a gas model plane. He cranked it up on a nice clear and warm summer day and let it go. It climbed beautifully to probably 500 feet when the timer shut off the engine. We expected it to glide down and land but it continued climbing. Apparently it had gotten into a thermal, a warm rising air current that was going up faster than the model was coming down. We lost sight of it when it got probably over a thousand feet. We never saw it come down. We spent the next day combing Clay County Minnesota since the wind had been coming out of the west, with no luck.

      This picture was taken on a nice summer day. I'm leaning on Sam, enjoying the inactivity.

      Some time later we were in Scheel's Hardware at Third and Broadway. We were talking with one of the salesmen and the subject came up. And he said he had been talking to a customer the other day and he mentioned finding one on his farm out in Minnesota. We got the name and he went out to his farm. He had found the plane while harvesting and had pretty well wrecked it.
      I built a 54 inch model called a Buccaneer. I was so eager to fly it that I skipped the usual and obligatory glide tests and short flight it should have had. I let it go for a full 40 seconds. We usually trimmed them so they would climb under power in a curve to the left. Then when the engine quit and the torque quit it would glide down in a curve to the right. I should have been concerned when it climbed in a straight line. When the engine quit it turned to the right. But it was too much and it turned so hard to the right that it went into a hard tight spin, straight down, into a plowed field. The plane was sturdy and was unhurt except for a bent landing gear and a dirty engine. I didn't move the prop because of the dirt, fearing it might score the piston and ruin the compression. I took it home, dismantled the engine, cleaned it and reassembled it, put it back on the plane, straightened the landing gear and flew it a lot, later.
      Later I made a Zenith, a much larger plane. I made it of smaller balsa than was called for, 3/16th in stead of quarter inch. I braced it internally with eighth square balsa. I covered it with a double layer of Japanese tissue, crossgrained, all to decrease weight. Ready to fly it weighed just over three pounds. I tested this one properly and flew it a number of times. One time I was out alone, southwest of town near highway 81. It flew beautifully and when it came down, it glided over highway 81 and landed in a field on the other side. I retrieved it and walked back holding it on my shoulder. I noticed a car that must have backed up a half mile on the highway (lots of luck trying that nowadays!) and reached me as I was coming out of the ditch. A surprised driver got out, looked at me and said, "I thought it was a real plane, I came back to see if anyone got hurt."
      I took it down to Uncle JC's one summer and we went out in the country and flew it, late in the afternoon. It lit in a field with lots of high ground cover and we couldn't find it. It got dark so we went home, went out in the morning and found it, unharmed.
      And again, Impatience. I had it in our cellar over the winter and the next spring Sam and I and some others went out to fly models. Sam had hay fever and would function for the first hour and finally would wind up sitting on the ground, head in his hands, and his eyes shut tightly by the hay fever. Again, I was impatient and didn't go through the testing phase. After all it flew so well last year! So I wound it up and let it go. I hand launched it and it started to climb to the right. The bank got steeper and steeper. When it got about halfway around the bank was steep enough so it was no longer climbing. It got steeper, the curve got tighter and it came back to where I was and after completing a tight circle it went into the ground under power in a something more than a 45 degree bank. It wiped out the right side of the fuselage. The wings and tail were held on by rubber bands so they would come off and be saved in a crash. However when I picked up the wing it had broken in two at the center. And the right half was a Japanese tissue sack full of splinters. It had been completely shattered.
      I finally realized what probably happened. Spending the entire winter in the basement with the temperature going up and down, one of the surfaces had warped slightly. It didn't take much. And I didn't test glide it!

      I still have that Ohlsson 60 engine.

      Sam and I decided to build a kayak of our own design. It was mostly his but I did contribute a few ideas and work. Bananas used to come to the store in a slightly tapered cylindrical wooden package. The wood was strong but quite thin. There were several circular hoops made of thin strips about two inches wide. We used them for the ribs. I think it was my idea to have a relatively flat bottom. Most kayaks had curved ribs and were "latitudinally" unstable. They turned over easily. We covered it and doped it with aircraft dope. (As I remember.) It was eighteen feet long and had a cockpit about thirty inches by six feet. It accomodated two with ease. We took it out on the Red River near the dam in Fargo. It was great and very stable. There were some other more conventional kayaks with friends. We got into a typical goodnatured teenage scrap, trying to turn each other over. We were never upset but all the others were. They would upset themselves, trying to upset us.
      One time we were out by the Gooseberry Mountains. This was a greatly overstated name, they weren't even high enough to be called hills! Mounds would probably be a better description. For some reason, I was out of the kayak on the bank on the Minnesota side. It was getting dark and Sam started paddling back, leaving me there. I ran along the bank hollering at him. There were fences that stretched down to the river at right angles to it. They would have two posts near the river with no wire so people could go through. Most of them, that is. I was running, full tilt, and one of them had a couple strands twisted together going across the posts chest high. I didn't see it because it was getting dark. I hit it running full tilt, chest high. My chest stopped but my feet kept going and I was laid out on my back, Wham!
      I think it was this year that we had a warm fall. I believe it was the 19th of December. I remember that I walked to school in the morning in shirt sleeves. That afternoon, probably about 3:30 I walked home in shirt sleeves, and it was snowing!

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