Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Update: Charlie Nogle at Pearl Harbor

Recently we published information concerning Elk River men stationed at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  We noted the newspaper’s lack of information about Charles Nogle, reportedly stationed at Guam, possibly captured or killed.  New information, with help from Nogle’s descendant Sandra Koppendrayer, allows us to provide an update: 

Actually stationed at Ewa Field, near Pearl Harbor, Marine Air Corps mechanic Charles Nogle witnessed and survived the attack on Hawaii.  A 1989 newspaper article published Nogle reminiscences about the day.  “At the time of the attack, I was a crew member on a DC-5 that out on the field.  We had two of them, and on December 7, one of the was in the overhaul hanger at Ford Island,” he said.  “Ironically, it was the only hanger building on Ford Island that was not hit, and that old bird never got a scratch on it.”

Nogle explained at the time of the attack he was caught wearing nothing but a towel, preparing to shower and head for liberty in Honolulu.  In the chaos that ensued, an officer ordered him to get dressed before joining the fight to protect Pearl Harbor.  He also remembered an anticipated invasion generated significant tension the following days.  An attack that never arrived.

To conclude the update: Charlie Nogle served throughout the war and returned home.  Elk River remained a residence for only a brief time after his return. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

In Consideration of Barns

A recent facebook post from the Stearns County History Center noted a variety of explanations for round barn architecture.  Although I am not too thoughtful, the article caused me to wonder the different why’s of barn construction.  Why are they round?  Why paint a barn red, or white?  What are the motives of a house barn? 

According to the Stearns County post, folklore suggested round barns were built so the devil could not hide in the corners.  More practically, round barns better withstood high winds, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.  In the end, technology eroded the popularity of round barns.  Loading silos and feeding cattle in a round barn proved more difficult than using a rectangular barn.  And, the expense of construction also discouraged the unique architecture of a round barn. 
Round barn located on the Perry Garner farm,
near Elk River, circa 1916

Economics also determined the color of a barn.  Several farmers suggested to me they painted barns red or white depending on the price of paint.  Still others mention that a homemade mixture of skimmed milk, lime, and red iron oxide created a long lasting, red tinted paint.  In addition, red barns may be warmer than white barns or unpainted barns.  The red hue absorbs heat in the winter time and makes for a warmer interior for the farm animals. 

Heat from the animals also plays a role in the construction of house barns.  Ole Rolvaag discussed house barn construction in his classic work, Giants of the Earth.  In his novel, Rolvaag makes clear, the heat generated by farm animals creates a more comfortable environment for a family sharing the same building.  Farmers utilized the house barn architecture for centuries in both Europe and the United States. 

As the Stearns County post suggests, barn construction is complex and at time very personal.  Yet the history of barn architecture provides significant consideration. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Rationing: A Vital Part of The War Effort

Today, as many people reflect on the wars of the twentieth century, “rationing” seems to serve as a great buzz word of the World War Two era.  In spite of a practice so common and mundane, many people do not fully appreciate the challenges and difficulties connected with this part of daily life.  Reading the pages of the Sherburne County Star News, the burden of rationing and the pressure to maintain a semblance of normalcy becomes apparent.
Ration book issued in Sherburne County, 1942
In Sherburne County, the greatest rationing challenge impacted farmers and the agriculture industry even before the war began.  As the winter of 1941 set in, advocates of the federal government urged farmers to keep their machines in good repair.  “New equipment in many instances will not be available” next year, the paper reported.   The war machine first rationed automobiles and tires, later sugar, gasoline, and pharmaceuticals joined the list. 1942 marked a year of even more stringent rationing as raw materials such as aluminum and steel came in short supply.  The Star News suggested in one headline: “People May As Well Get Accustomed to Rationing.” 

The Office of Production Management (the OPM), first developed the rationing programs.  A federal agency that created local offices to enforce rules and rationing laws. The War Production Board (the WPM) quickly took over the OPM, with a stricter adherence to the rationing programs.  The WPM issued the ration stamps to regulate and control access to scarce items.  Almost like coupons, individuals could not purchase some items, such as sugar or cooking oil, without redeeming ration stamps. 

As the war stretched, the government developed national programs to highlight civilians and their significant sacrifice, this way make the entire country appreciate self-sacrifice.  One such program featured Mabel Hislop, as an example of sacrifice.  By 1944, of her ten sons, eight had been drafted or enlisted in some branch of the military. That year she was featured when she gave all her kitchen pots, except one soup pot, to the local steel drive.  In the feature she allowed cooking would be difficult, but insignificant if it helped “bring her boys home.” 

For most everyone, like Mabel Hislop, rationing and sacrifice became common during the four years of World War Two.  Yet, more than 75 years later, society seems to have lost the meaning attached to these tasks so central to life in the 1940s.

Friday, January 18, 2019

A Singular Baker in Sherburne County

“Bake” Anderson, legally known as Clarence Anchor Anderson, remains a little known and unreferenced businessman and contributor to Elk River history.  Clarence Anderson gained the nickname “Bake” early.  He attended the Dunwoody Baker’s School in the 1920s with the goal of owning his own bakery.

Advertisement for Anderson's
Bakery, 1940
Beginning in about 1932, Bake Anderson opened Anderson’s Bakery in downtown Elk River.  38 years he operated, apparently, the only bakery in town. At times, he claimed the title of Sherburne County’s only bakery.  Regardless of the claims, he produced a wonderful array of pastries and breads for Elk River consumption.  Throughout the 1930s he sold ice box cookies, pies, cakes, donuts, and a variety of breads.  At Christmas he sold a number of fruitcakes and breads.  Jula Kaga, a Swedish Christmas bread, remained a specialty unique to his bakery.  He also continuously updated his bakery, guaranteeing a quality product.  To celebrate eight years of business, he gave away donuts and coffee to everyone entering his store.  And, so, he remained in business until the 1970s.

His love of baseball and work to organize little league teams also set Bake Anderson apart from most of Elk River.  In his obituary, memorials remembered his work during World War Two.  “All the fathers were called into service and the kids were running around town with nothing to do.  He organized” teams and leagues.  Despite gasoline and tire rations, Bake Anderson chauffeured the players to their games using his delivery truck. 

For 38 years he built and maintained a bakery business of high tradition. He also contributed to the community and support of young people in Elk River. After his retirement, he continued to live and support Elk River until his death in 1997. 

His community support and his work building a thriving business made the Anderson Bakery and Bake Anderson memorable to the history of Elk River.  A man and business worth noting.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Big City Schools and One-Roomed Schools: Education in Sherburne County

The lyrics from a Perry Como Christmas song keep running through my head, “Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.”  My thoughts turn to schools in Sherburne County; the large consolidated schools such as Handke School in Elk River; and the many small, one-roomed school houses in the county.  Although the larger communities of Elk River and Big Lake offered large well-established schools.  The majority of students in early Sherburne County attended one-roomed school houses.  Until the 1960s, one-roomed schools served an important role in education in Sherburne County.  In fact, from 1854 to 1969, more than 50 one-roomed schools taught children in Sherburne County.  Many of these schools educated 25 students each year, grades one through eight.  How they operated and functioned is a story better told in volumes.  Some of the memories, however, are worth recording here. 
Haven Township school circa 1905

Many of the teachers in the schools remember a typical schedule as described by Rozella Tinquist Gunderson in Lighting the fire: The Rural School Experience:  School begins at 9 am.  9 am to 9:15 opening exercises, flag salute and quiet time.  9:15 to 10:30 classes and recess, more classes until noon.  12 noon to 12:30 lunch and play time.  12:30 to 2:30 classes, study time, and recess.  2:30 to4 pm classes until school dismissed.  4:00 pm to 5:30 pm planning for next day, and 7 pm to 11 pm correcting necessary papers. 

Not surprisingly, the students remember a less arduous school day.  Dennis Weis remembered, “from the day school started, I knew what was the best part of school—recess.  We played lots of games—tag, red rover, hide and seek, marbles, anti over, dodge ball, keep away and tin can alley.  We ran races, played on the swings, built snow forts, and drowned striped gophers.” 

District 32 school circa 1929
Other students remember the one-roomed schools as institutions to be avoided.  In an oral history collected in 2016, Betty Belanger remembered her insistence in attending the “city school” in Elk River. “Started school at age six. Fought with my parents to not make me go to the little country school. I wanted to go to the big city school and ride the bus. So, I did go to school in town, in Elk River,” she remembered. “The new Handke building was already built by the time I started school. So, the senior high was over there in the new brick building and we were still in the wood frame building. We rode the school bus for a long time because there were only a few busses, so we had a good one hour or better ride.” 

Whether from the memories of teachers or from students, education in the one-roomed schools and the “big city schools” of Sherburne County made a lasting impression on the entire community of the county. The 115-year history of one-roomed schools in Sherburne County provides thought provoking history. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Post Holiday Enthusiasm

Unfortunately, the holidays are over, yet, the joy of the season remains with me.  So, I want to share this small artifact from the collections of the Sherburne History Center.

This commemorative plate comes from the Frank Henkemeyer General Store in Clear Lake.  Probably dated around 1905 to 1910, Henkemeyer's store was a fixture on Clear Lake main street until around 1920.

I wanted to use this additional artifact to wish everyone a belated Happy Holidays, especially a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Super Bowl Blizzard and Sherburne County

The first snow of each year generates discussion about the multitude of blizzards and snowstorms in Minnesota History.  We have the Armistice Day blizzard in 1940, the Easter blizzard in 1968, the Halloween blizzard of 1991.  And now we have the Super Bowl blizzard on 1975. 

The wet snow of January contributed to the challenges
of the Supper Bowl blizzard of 1975
Beginning January 9, and continuing for three days, rain, then freezing rain, then snow blanketed Minnesota.  Minnesota football fans christened the storm the Super Bowl Blizzard.  As the three-day deluge began to subside the Minnesota Vikings faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl IX. 

Locally, the Vikings loss went unmentioned as local reporters documented the snow storm.  Elk River reported a total of 13 inches of snow and wind up to 40 miles an hour after the three-day storm.  “The first indications of real trouble came when heavy sleet and ice coated electric wires,” the Elk River Star News reported.  “The extra weight coupled with high winds produced many broken wires.” 

As the blizzard continued, county officials determined to closed Highway 10 between Elk River and Big Lake.  “Unfortunately,” the paper reported, “the Highway 10 barricades blew down several times, and a number of trucks and motorists drove on into the teeth of the blizzard only to meet their Waterloo at the overpass between Elk River and Big Lake.”  The paper estimated 25 motorists were stranded during the storm.
View of the Elk River Alliance Church hints at the
depth of the many snow drifts from the blizzard

A particularly harrowing event during the height of the storm involved the medical evacuation of a young boy in Big Lake.  State snow plows and four-wheel drive vehicles were called into service to aid an ambulance in its journey to the Monticello Hospital.   According to the newspaper, the ambulance twice became stuck in snow drifts during the trip.  The boy’s hospital run ended with his delivery at the hospital from the cab of a snow plow. 

Lesser, not so life threatening, inconveniences also resulted from the storm.  The blizzard postponed Funeral services for four local residents in the Elk River area.  A movie fundraiser at the Methodist Church was rescheduled. 
Eventually the snow melted, and life went on.  Yet the snow storm of January 1975 entered the history books as the memorable Super Bowl blizzard. Ranked with the Halloween blizzard, the Easter blizzard and the Armistice Day blizzard, as eventful in the history of Minnesota weather.