Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

More Letters From Somewhere in France: Describing the Y

The letters from George Bostrom to his sister document the events of World War One in interesting detail. Only after the war is over, he writes about seeing action in the Argonne Forest. More importantly, in the chronolo0gical order of his letters, he describes his seven days of leave in December 1918. He provides an interesting contrast between life on the front lines versus the luxury hotel he stays in Chambray, France. 

I am having just a dandy time at present, he wrote. Have been over here long enough to be granted a seven day pass and here I am at Chambray to enjoy it. And I sure am enjoying it. After being in the lines for nearly a month of real hardships. Laying in shell holes and digin’s, what we call them, lots of times wet thru and thru and cold and then sent to a place like this with every comfort you can think of. 


 He went on to describe the luxuries of the ever-present Y.M.C.A. The Y.M.C.A I must tell you about. There’s a Y. here in a very large building. They have reading rooms, writing rooms, lunchroom, all of which are large and well fixed up. The have the place open from early morning and up until eleven or twelve o’clock evenings. In the morning they put up a dandy breakfast for a very small sum. In the afternoon and evening they serve hot chocolate and cookies or Ice cream, free of charge

 Only in a later letter, he mentions the action he encountered in the Argonne Forest. Our division was doing it’s most important work since they’ve been in France, from October 8th and up until November 1st we were in some real fighting at that time in the Argonne Forest. 

 In his letters, Bostrom only briefly references the actions he fought in. More often he describes daily life and the beauty of the French landscape. Throughout his letters, George Bostrom provides interesting insight into the life of an American soldier in World War One.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Women's Basketball in Elk River

 

Recently, it occurred to me, this blog heaped a great deal of attention on athletics in Elk River.  Unfortunately, the attention focused on men’s sports, specifically football and basketball.  It is time to shift the focus and give attention to women in sports in Sherburne County.

Elk River Women's team, 1921

As early as 1921, several schools in and around Elk River offered Women’s Basketball to the female students.  Based upon the writing in the Elk River yearbook the women of Elk River presented a relatively new sport to the student body. The description of the Elk River team noted “inexperienced” players for the team.  In addition, the yearbooks writers reported “a lack of a suitable place in which to practice.”  In spite of these shortcomings, the Elk River team posted a 2 and 3 record, facing Anoka, Princeton, Buffalo, and Monticello. 

The women of Elk River continued to build on their experience.  Women’s Basketball became a regular part of the offering at the High School.  By 1926, the team scheduled a 13-game season, adding games against Big Lake, Osseo, and St. Francis, posting a 9 and 4 record. 

Elk River Women, 1926

With the coming economic depression in the 1930s, some schools dropped women’s sports.  Elk River offered a replacement to this with intramural sports.  The school promoted play in soccer, basketball, volleyball, and kittenball.  Organized, league play, returned to Elk River in the 1950s.

 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Football in Sherburne County

 

Football season is upon us.  It seemed very appropriate to note the great history of Football in Sherburne County.  Sherburne county athletes played organized games of football for 130 years.  According to “A Century of Pride The History of Elk River Football,” the first game reported in the local news witnessed Elk River defeating a team from Monticello by a score of 29 to zero.  Since then, Sherburne County presented a number of notable games.  Here are two seasons of Elk River High School football players, 1914 and 1927.  Note, 1927 saw a championship season, with the Elk River team recording a record of 5-1-1.   Later, Big Lake and Becker presented outstanding teams.  The Big Lake team from 1967 presented below.

Elk River 1914

Elk River Championship Team 1927
                    
Big Lake 1967



Thursday, September 9, 2021

Remember 9/11

 

With the coming of the twentieth anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, 9/11, it may be appropriate to take some time and think about the events of that day.  Where were you when the towers were attacked?  Let’s think about the 3,000 people killed that day, and the 6,000 injured.  Remember, the attacks also hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

This week, every memorial ought to serve as a 
reminder of what happened on 11 September 2001
This day is perhaps the single most important event of a generation.  Maybe we can take the events of that day, and the days immediately following, to become more sympathetic, more empathetic, more generous individuals.  Let’s emulate the good from the people that suffered that day. Remember them for the kindness and courage they showed us.  Learn from them and become better individuals.

Let’s take some time and think: Where were you when the towers were attacked?

Friday, September 3, 2021

More Letter From Somewhere In France

A few weeks ago, we shared a few lines of letters from Pvt. George Bostrom to his sister.  Bostrom, originally from Elk River, served in the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War One.  Here is a second portion of a letter in 1918 sharing conditions in France in the last days of the war:


Well Sister, I’m in the lines again and have been for some time.  I think we will move soon, possibly little further to the front because we are kind of in reserve here although we aren’t so very far from the front. Suits me alright tho because back here we would be an excellent target for the (Germans) if they had a mind to open up their big guns on us.  There has been some of their medium sized shells come our way at different times.  The other night they sent ove3r a few that made us wonder if they really had come with our names marked on them but I guess they must have misspelled them.  I shouldn’t joke that way.  It hurts me when I hear others talk that way but here I am writing it.

Well I will close for this time.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

World War Two Victory Gardens and Canning: Elk River on the Home Front

With the coming harvest season, I am reminded of the practices for preserving food during World War Two.  In 1943, with the war going full blast, every family tried to raise food in their own “victory gardens.”  The produce of these gardens seemed so abundant questions developed on how to best preserve the extra food.  In Elk River a unique program developed to provide canning services to any family in need of the service. 

In June 1943, the Elk River newspaper announced the high school acquired a canning unit capable of processing 500 quarts per day.  With the aid of supervisors, anyone needing access to the canning unit might preserve any food grown in their victory gardens.  The unit canned in glass or tin cans.  If the family used tin cans, they would be charged two cents per can.

“All are welcome to come in and can,” School Superintendent Robert Handke said.  He anticipated high demand for the unit, he encouraged residents to contact the school to reserve time for the operation. 

The only shortcoming of the program concerned vandalism of victory gardens.  In July, the Village Marshall posted an ad in the Elk River newspapers.  He knew of several vandals destroying victory gardens.  He wanted to give them an opportunity to turn themselves in before he turned these cases over to the state for prosecution.  The Marshall’s tactics apparently succeeded, as the vandalism stopped, and the Elk River canning unit preserved a bumper crop of garden produce.   

The canning units in Elk River serve as another example of the attitude of complete cooperation during World War Two. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Remembering Weather in the 1930s

 

The current weather conditions, drought, high heat, and lack or water reminds me of recent research into Sherburne County during the 1930s.  A time of worse weather conditions permeated throughout the county.

Farming in Orrock Township after the difficult
weather of the 1930s.  Notice the thick layer of
sand sitting above the darker soil.
In the years 1933 and 1934, the county suffered a major drought.  Farmers remembered the time as a “dust bowl.”  Some residents of Sherburne County remember this time as an end to farming in some areas of the county.  “The light, worn out soils took to the air and drifted like snow over the roads and onto front porches,” is the way historian Herb Murphy described it.  Some folklore of the times described Orrock Township as the “poison ivy capital of the world.”  Other tall tales suggested that “jack rabbits, when passing through Orrock Township, had to pack a lunch because there was nothing to eat.” 

A variety of conservation efforts restored the area of Orrock Township.  Conservation groups planted trees and slowly brought back the land.  The bulk of the township became the Sherburne Wildlife Refuge and the Sand Dunes State Forest.  All of this resulting from the catastrophic drought conditions in the 1930s.  Worse than the weather of 2021, yet events important to remember.