Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Pearl Harbor and the Men From Elk River

Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

After the attack at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the country suffered a level of crisis not experienced in eons.  For many, the original concern arose from not knowing of the survival of family members serving and stationed in Hawaii.  Some families in Sherburne County experienced this anxiety. 

The survival of Orville Burandt and Charles Nogle, both residents near Elk River, remained unknown for some time in 1941.  Their families and friends remained in limbo for several weeks after the initial attacks.

Orville Burandt, serving in the navy since early in 1941 sent information to the Sherburne County Star News about his service.  He arrived in Peral Harbor in August 1941.  According to the newspaper report Burandt served in the communications office of the Flag of Patrol Wing 2.  His duties included forwarding communications to and from patrol planes.  Two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, news finally arrived in Elk River that Orville Burandt was “all right and feeling fine.” 

The life of Charles Nogle, however, remained in question.  Rumors reported Nogle as killed or possibly taken prisoner at Guam in late 1941.  Japanese forces invaded Guam the day after Pearl Harbor, seizing control of the island in a matter of a few days.  The local newspapers reported the early attacks against the United States.  Yet, the newspapers failed to verify the rumors regarding the soldiers.  What is known: Nogle returned from the war to Sherburne County In 1946.  His service record remained unreported. 

Rumors remained a common source of information throughout the war. A letter published in the Sherburne County Star News reinforced, however, the inaccuracies of so many rumors.  Stanley Wheaton, stationed at Felts Field, Washington State, in 1941, reminded newspapers readers of the rumors and their inaccuracies.  “The army is the greatest place for rumors to get started,” he wrote.  “And when they start they fly thick and fast.” 

With the attack at Pearl Harbor, the lives of so many Sherburne County residents fell into turmoil.  Men who were drafted and their families all suffered a unique level of crisis until the men returned home.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Holidays and Their Food Traditions

Beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing to Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations, food remains a constant topic of discussion.  It seems appropriate, then, to explore food traditions during the holiday season.  Why do we serve turkey during the holidays?  In Minnesota, why is lutefisk a tradition in so many households?  Whatever happened to the traditional Christmas goose?  

A quick search of the internet provides some leads to the important question of why these foods are served on the holidays.

Lutefisk, white fish soaked in lye, is long a tradition of Norwegian foodways.  My favorite explanation of the importance of lutefisk suggests the fish reinforce the traditional image of the sturdy, strong Norwegian immigrants.  One story claims Irishmen in an effort to drive off invading Norsemen tried to poison a supply of dried white fish by pouring lye over a barrel of the fish.  By the time the poison was discovered, starving Norwegians had no choice but to wash the lye from the fish and eat.  Our hearty Norwegian ancestors discovered the fish were not spoiled and actually were palatable.  From that point on, to prove their heartiness and to memorialize the strength of their ancestors, Norwegians served lye soaked white fish, lutefisk, during the cold winter months are around Christmas.  And, tradition as born. 

The story of lutefisk may be apocryphal, the traditions around turkey and the Christmas goose also remain steeped in vague and far-fetched lore.  Most food historians agree, Pilgrims did not serve Turkey at the first Thanksgiving.  In all likelihood, turkey as the center of Thanksgiving feasts emerged from the imagination of New England author Sarah Josepha Hale.  During the Civil War, as part of her campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, Sarah Hale described the ideal Thanksgiving banquet with turkey as the centerpiece. 

Pragmatists may also favor turkey at Thanksgiving.  Unlike chickens or cattle, turkeys on a farm have limited utilitarian value.  Chickens provide eggs.  Cows produce milk.  Turkeys provide less produce on a farm.  In addition, the bird will feed a large family.

Like turkeys, the end of the Christmas Goose tradition can be traced back to the influences of literature in 19th Century Britain and the United States.  According to Slate magazine, and other internet sources, the concept of a turkey as a holiday necessity gained prominence after the publication in 1832 of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.  At the end of this story (spoiler alert!) Scrooge sends the Cratchit family a Christmas turkey to replace the Christmas goose they have planned.  Dickens, intentionally or not, suggested a Christmas goose symbolized a poor man’s dinner.  Goose was served only when a family could not afford the more exotic and expensive Christmas turkey. 

There we go.  Food traditions during the holidays reinforce a folklore and cultural practices beyond a celebration of thanksgiving and overindulgence.  Exploring the folklore and food traditions of our ancestors provides enlightening understanding of holidays past.  Now we have an opportunity to closely consider the traditions behind the foods we eat during the holidays.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

More About Sherburne County Depression Era Programs

Young men, most likely from the NYA, taking a break
 from working on the Handke Stadium, a joint NYC and
WPA project in Elk River

Recent blog posts regarding Depression era programs in Sherburne County suggest a number of county residents received federal assistance.  Further reading the pages of the county newspaper, the Sherburne County Star News, shows the county nearly dependent on federal programs for survival. 

Several articles in the newspapers report the Sherburne County farming community received significant support from Franklin Roosevelt’s economic programs.  In 1940 and 1941 nearly 90 percent of the farms in Sherburne County received benefits from the Agriculture Adjustment Administration.  In 1941, 1630 farms in Sherburne County, out of a total of 1822 farms, received some payments from the AAA programs. 

In addition to farm aid, depression era programs included the construction around Handke Stadium.  The Works Progress Administration (the WPA) funded a variety of road construction and gravel paving projects throughout Sherburne county.  The federal program also funded construction of a 115-foot steel and concrete bridge in Big Lake.  The WPA also funded a hot lunch program at Elk River school.  The program fed 125 children.  The WPA also funded book repair programs and community education programs in Sherburne County. 

Simple mental calculations show the amount of federal aid spent in Sherburne County significantly assisted the community in recovering from the 1930s economic depression.  With the WPA, AAA, CCC, and NYA the county clearly received significant benefits and assistance, assistance impossible to fully calculate.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Information Updates

Yet, another follow-up detail from the pages of the Sherburne County Star News. 

Recent research noted a depression era program offering mattresses to farm families in the county.  A program offering low income families an opportunity to “make your own mattresses.”

Although this image originates from the mattress program
 in New Orleans, it provides an understanding of the entire
mattress making process. 
Photo courtesy of the National Archives
In a follow-up article from 1941, the newspaper reported families requested and made 470 pieces of bedding in Sherburne County during the first six months of the year.  Operating out of Bowles' Garage in Zimmerman and the Clear Lake Town Hall, the program provided quite a few families with mattresses in this brief aid experiment.  Under the direction of Mrs. Charles Hetrick in Zimmerman and Mrs. John Leitha in Clear Lake, the Sherburne County Extension Office taught families how to make the mattresses and expedited the process to provide comfortable sleeping for county residents. 

Although the program offered opportunity to low income families, “Make Your Own Mattresses” developed as a plan to reduce surplus cotton supplies in the Southern United States.   Although the plan originated with the Agriculture Adjustment Administration, a second, lesser known agency provided assistance in the program. 

The National Youth Administration, another New deal agency, provided job training and work to young people between the ages of 16 and 25.  The N.Y.A. uniquely trained women and men for work outside of the home.  In the case of the “Make Your Own Mattress” program the N.Y.A. employees assisted in the construction and sewing of the mattresses.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sherburne County Prepares for World War Two

Although the United States did not enter World War Two until December 1941, the government instituted preparations for war as early as 1940.  The plans for war impacted Sherburne County as the army drafted a number of young men in the county.  The local newspaper, Sherburne County Star News reported the draft calls and also noted national efforts to get ready for war. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Giant Visits Elk River

Robert Wadlow strikes a
pose with the
Greupner brothers during
his promotional stop in Elk River

Business relies on publicity.  In 1939, Greupner Shoe Store carried this adage to an unusual end. Appearing to promote Peters Shoe Company, and the local distributor: Greupner Shoes, the tallest man in the world arrived in Elk River.

Robert Wadlow, of Illinois, spent a day in August 1939, in Elk River.  He busied himself signing autographs and promoting the quality footwear of Peters’ Shoes.  Pointing out his own shoes, Wadlow noted the size as 37AA. 

Using a cane and braces to move through the city, Wadlow struck a variety of poses beside individuals and automobiles to illustrate his great height.  On the day of his visit, the Sherburne County Star News measured him at 8 feet, 9 ½ inches.  A year later, at his death he was measured at 8 feet 11 inches. 

During his visit to Elk River, his most memorable pose provided comparison to the height of William and Fred Greupner.  The newspaper reported Wadlow as the “giant as big as is claimed.” 

The paper concluded the report by congratulating the Greupner brothers for the enterprising promotion in bringing Wadlow to Elk River and the publicity for Greupner shoes and for Elk River.

Friday, August 31, 2018

"Make Your Own Mattress" in Sherburne County

“Make Your Own Mattress:” served as a program developed by the United States Department of Agriculture in the Fall 1940 to eliminate a cotton surplus from the South.  The USDA targeted Sherburne County as a potential location to benefit from the program.  Although small in economic impact, it provided some aid to local families.

According to reports from Washington. D. C., an over-abundance of cotton hit the market in the fall of 1940.  The Agriculture Adjustment Administration, a depression era program to help farmers, created the “Make Your Own Mattress” program to reduce the cotton surplus.

The preliminary plans reported by the Sherburne County Star News, noted an undisclosed warehouse will store cotton and “good grade ticking” so that individuals might sew their own mattresses.  The government developed the program for low income, rural families in Minnesota.  Income could not exceed $500 for a family of four and households received one mattress for two household members, not to exceed three of the mattresses.

Adult family members paid a fee of one dollar to cover the cost of needles and thread, the newspaper reported.  The families worked in the warehouse as a team to sew their own mattresses and take them home.  The County Extension Office and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration provided trained instructors to supervise the manufacturing process.  

Although a minor event in the greater activities of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the “Make Your Own Mattress” program serves as another example of the multitude of Depression Era economic experiments to aid Sherburne County.  Although smaller than the WPA or the CCC, “Make Your Own Mattress” and other AAA projects certainly provided significant aid to the county.