My uncle Paul Hanson was the mayor of Clarks Grove for 33 years and grew up near Ellendale. I ran across one of his notes about growing up in Ellendale in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Paul was one of those people that was always cognizant of what was going on around him. In this piece, he reminisced about small towns. There’s a lesson there for all of us — the smallest thing (like an odor) can take us back across the years. Ellendale-area residents will know many of the places he wrote about, but the lesson is just as appropriate for residents of any small town. Here are some of Paul’s observations:
"Perhaps one of the things that one never forgets, along with sight and hearing memories, is the smell factor. To this day, I can close my eyes and come up with the aroma of a roast beef dinner at Johanna Jensen's cafe, the smell of a big burger with onions at Wes's place and the taste of a chocolate malt at Jorgenson’s. Jorgenson’s was sort of a high school hangout; probably because of their two teenage daughters, Betty and Aileen.
"I can recall the smell of leather at Ziegler’s harness shop, the oil used to temper the leather, as it was a big purchase to get custom made harness from Paul Ziegler.
"The smell of binder twine from the two implement dealers and Nic Jansen, and the distinctive odor of rope, cutting oil and other metal objects at the hardware stores of Miller Brothers, Nelson-Meland and John Stadheim.
"The smell of sawdust on the floor at Anderson Brothers' meat market; fruit odors from Lerberg’s and Speed Nelson’s grocery stores, with the added nose twitch of new denim overalls at Lerberg’s. The smell of freshly steamed cream cans at the Ellendale Creamery, the smell of chickens, testing cream and general merchandise at Nels Peters’ produce station. The iodine smell of Dr. Ertel’s office, as well as the odor and shrill of the drill in Dr. Algie’s office as he ground out your cavities was a smell one doesn't forget easily.
"I never could figure out why the doctors in those days were at the top of about 17 steps, but then they did make house calls. The smell of new tires at the various filling stations, a new car at Aronson’s garage, or the smell of hair tonic at Sander Jellum’s barbershop were not easily forgotten. Neither was the distinctive odor of Jack Ellingson’s pool hall, the smell of new money at the Security State Bank or the Ellendale State Bank. There was also the smell of printer’s ink and the clank of the typesetting machine at the Eagle office where Cecil Campbell and Jimmy Hand put the paper together.
"The smell of freshly ground feed at the Farmer’s Milling and Elevator Co. or from Misgen’s Stockyard also comes to mind. All of it an indelible memory, yet all of it spelled prosperity for the Ellendale community.
"Did I miss some business places? Of course...the smell of lumber and sawdust at the lumberyard, the odor from the forges of blacksmiths Rasmus and Chris Laursen as they sharpened the plowlays, shaped horseshoes, and repaired broken equipment of the community.
"Wouldn't it be fun to go back to those days for just a few hours? I'd order one of Tillie Lerum’s famous hamburgers, with the meat sticking out the side with pickles and onions. I would plunk down a nickel or dime. And of course I would have to save room for one of Jorgenson’s ice cream malts, too thick to suck through a straw, or Nic Jansen’s popcorn — yellow with Ellendale butter, or a soda from the drug store that many people remember and talk about."
Yes, that is life in small towns. Most of us, if we close our eyes and think about it, have those same vivid memories of small towns, but writers like Al Batt and Paul Hanson express them for us. Who would have thought that smells would bring back memories? There was a time when you could get almost everything you needed in small towns. A trip to the Twin Cities was a grand adventure and something only done perhaps once a year. Anything not available in a local store could be ordered by the storekeeper or bought from a catalog.
People supported their local merchants in small towns, because the merchants (and their employees) were friends. Many rural kids got their first jobs working for these local merchants.
Perhaps the first threat to small towns would be the loss of a grocery store. Most people today aren’t aware that in the days before supermarkets, people raised many of their vegetables in their gardens, and put up produce in glass jars. They may have even raised and butchered their own livestock, and in the era before home freezers were popular (mid-’60s) they would put up the meat by renting space in local locker plants. For those who had to purchase their meat and vegetables, they went to the butcher shop for meat, to the greengrocer for produce, and the store for canned and dried goods. The supermarket is a relatively new invention; putting all grocery needs under one roof and causing the demise of many small-town shops. Even supermarkets are now threatened by mega-stores — and by non-stores like the Internet.
Think back to all of the small shops in your town. Will you have memories similar to my Uncle Paul’s, or will your memories consist of products that were delivered by UPS or FedEx? As for me, I like small-town merchants and supporting small towns. I try to patronize them every chance I get by doing business with friends and neighbors. It’s one of the reasons we choose to live here.
Some of our Star Eagle readers have commented they like to read about events such as family and school reunions, birthdays and anniversaries, and birth and wedding announcements. In order to read about these important things we need our faithful readers to pass along the information to us. Also if you have an idea for a story that you think would be of interest to our readers, please contact me.
This week’s birthdays and anniversaries include:
• Thursday, May 15th: Carter Hagen, Evan Dobberstein, Megan Grubish, Alex Wayne, Mark Flesche, Dan Hagen, Don Hagen, Nicole Strand Harris, Stephanie Krueger, Neil Berg, Sandy Jensen, Marsha Neitzell, Tammy Thompson, Brett & Jessica Richards, Ralph & Irene Krueger, Jon & Nicole Farr
• Friday, May 16th: Ron Kubicek, Mark Reistad, Mark Skroch, Vernie Stieglbauer, Kim Lageson, Doug Lembke, Judy Karsjens, Anne Larson, Allycia Zinke, Becky Phagan, Bev White, Annie Larson, Christine & Brian Carlson
• Saturday, May 17th: Laura Caroline Deml, her 7th; Caitlyn Nelson, David Thompson, Dale DeRaad, Rhonda Lund Thevenot, Jerry Blouin, Robert Briggs, Dyne Thereneau, Kay Barclay, Darlyne Paulson, Judith Hatch, Thomas Shawback, Rose & Carl Glienke
• Sunday, May 18th: Blake Ihrke, Zachary Jacob Dau, Cory Bailey, David Farr, Arlene Busho, Arlene Cummins, Xan Johnson, Mandy Muri Johannsen, Charlie Hanson, Dan Schember, Hank Thompson, Carol Stohr, Roger Draayer, Kelly Krumwiede, Rod Serdahl, Dan & Val Schember, Sue & Dean Westrum, Ken & Pat Sable
• Monday, May 19th: Christina Hill Berry, Madison Schweirjohann, Summer Schember Schultz, Mike Rysavy, John Oolman, Dawn Parks, Tim & Tiffany Hanson
• Tuesday, May 20th: Oakley Baker, Kaye Schember Cady, Laureen Hohansee, Kathy Hanson, Hannah Ashton, Carrie Thorstenson, Penny Nordhorn, Haley Collins, Scott Stohr, Kevin Peterson, Kent Lageson, Josh Kelly, Virginia Jensen, Cynthia Butler, Jay & Marsha Neitzel, Ed & Camille Nelson, Hannah Ashton, Adam & Kristen Arends
• Wednesday, May 21st: Tony Dodge, Christopher Flim, Tom Wilker, Joel Cooper, Ryan Parks
Celebrating with you as you mark another year. Hoping that your day is filled with family, friends and cheer!