The Dwelles

A Little Reminiscing
by Art Dwelle

Mr. Andy Anderson, who owned the Roseglen Mercantile Company, sent me to manage the store in the spring of 1918, as Mr. Strand, who had managed it, was called into the Army.

I did not have an auto at that time, and whoever took us between Ryder and Roseglen, it seemed, used a different road or trail every time. It seemed to me that they just took off across the prairie, but I soon learned all the trails.

Alma Anderson, I remember, was running a restaurant, and had a few sleeping rooms. Mr. A.L. Grace, who was working for the bank with Mr. Connors, and myself - there were several others - were boarding and rooming there. My family had not moved out, as there was no room for them.

That spring was very rainy, especially at night, and the restaurant building had tar paper roofing, which was torn. It seemed about every night, a storm would come up, and the roof would leak through enough so the horse blankets we had for bed covers would get wet, and we would have to move around and try to find a dry place.

My first car, which was a Ford, was bought from Tony Rensch at Makoti, who sold me his demonstrator when he was called into the army. Mrs. William Deleen, whose husband was cashier at the bank, and my wife and I, used to drive all over the country in the summer,  having a lot of fun, sometimes changing a tire, and cranking the old Ford by hand, but we always seemed to get home okay.

That reminds me of one time a young man came into the store with his wrist dislocated by his car backfiring when cranking it. As there were no doctors around, I tried and happened to be able to snap the wrist back in place.

In the winter time, when the snow was too deep to drive a car, to pass the time, there were sleigh rides to different farm places to play Norwegian whist. There were some real good players in those days.

One winter, there was no barber in Roseglen, and my hair was about long enough to braid, so one quiet day, I made the first man who came into the store cut my hair. His name was McGrath, and he did a good job too.

The one snow storm that no one could forget was in March, 1920, when several of the Gus Wohlk children were frozen in the Hiddenwood school district. The children in the Roseglen district, where my wife was teaching at the time, were held at the school, or in town, until the storm let up.

We can sincerely say we enjoyed our stay in the Roseglen area very much.

More Reminiscing
by Mrs. Art Dwelle, Minot, North Dakota

We lived for a short time in what we called the "Wallin shack", probably about a mile from the store. When a house was built for us on the townsite, we moved there. As I remember, there were two other houses there, Aamoth's and Wood's. Then there was the bank, pool hall, restaurant, blacksmith shop, and store.

Mail came out three times a week. Mail days were special days. The store had no regular evening closing hours; my husband remembers getting up at night to get a postage stamp for someone who came late to mail a letter.

When the school house was built, I became the first teacher, because no one else was available. I believe it was in January, 1920, that the school opened. There were four children living on the townsite: Ernest Woods, Milton Aamoth, and our two, Laura and Clark. Clark wasn't of school age, but he couldn't stay home alone, so he went to school.

The Hans Lunden girls, Mildred and Gladys, came there to school - four from the August Sprenger family - there were the Bryson children - four of the Barsness family, Reuben, Oswald, Judith and Gladys. Then there were the older Halvorson boys, and for a time, four of the Albert Austad family. Frances Schoening and Throup Johnson came there for a time. Two children were living in the Schuman home, and they came to school also.

A Scandinavian young woman lived at the Lunden home, and came to school with the Lunden girls to learn English. She later became Mrs. Amund Bosman.

Not all the pupils came to school on the day of the blizzard in March of 1920, but none wanted to leave when school was out. We prepared, as best we could, to spend the night in the school house. However, we were soon rescued. John Aamoth and A.J. Grace came to the school house, using a rope to guide them back. They helped us to the store and our house. The pupils spent the night at our house.

Still More Reminiscing
by Aura Dwelle Scott, Minot, North Dakota

I'll add a little bit to my parents' accounts of the store and school. The store was the old type of establishment you read about. Groceries were on one side, and drygoods on the other. In a back shed, was the entrance to the cellar and a place for testing cream. I think this was for butter fat content. Just inside the front door was the post office. Dad tells, in the family, about the time he got hauled out of bed to sell someone a one-cent stamp. In front of the store were gasoline pumps.

There was no eight-hour day, or forty-hour week. Saturday night, Dad was often in the store until two o'clock in the morning. We generally went out of town on Sunday, or Dad was in the store all day. Someone would come and get him to open up, some other customer would come before he could close again, and there he would be.

The crackers, and other commodities, were in big barrels which were kept open in the aisles. The reserve stock was stored in the basement. When he needed something, he placed planks on the cellar steps and rolled the barrels up by using his hips.

Coffee was ground in an immense coffee mill. Cheese was in a huge cake under a round glass. Meats like bacon, or hard sausage, were hung from the rafters in the shed. The only refrigeration was ice from the ice house, made in the winter-time, and not always that. There was no fresh meat to buy; people did their own butchering. Women brought in eggs and butter for pin money. Dad  had the good buttermakers spotted, and had their butter promised in advance. Of course, most people made their own butter.

There were no tailor-made cigarettes; men bought Bull Durham, some cigarette papers, and rolled their own. I remember Mother cleaning her old-style diamond ring with these papers by twisting them and inserting them between the tines that held the set.

When Indians came to trade - at first in buckboards, it took a lot of time to wait on them. They bought one thing at a time, and paid for it before going on with the next. Sometimes they could not speak English, so they had to employ sign language. Once Mother was alone with one of these Indians in the store. He kept measuring a spot on his arm and saying, "So long." They went all over the place and couldn't find what was wanted, until Dad came in from out in the shed. Through the door, the Indian saw what he wanted, a slab of bacon. Another time, a buck kept slapping his leg in imitation of a trap closing, but we couldn't understand him until he saw what he wanted - a mouse trap. Dad always said, "I don't know what he wanted with a mousetrap, anyhow." With the advent of the car, the very last money the Indian had was spent on gas. It was bad form to go home unless you left broke.

Oh yes, vanilla extract had to be watched or it walked off. It was drunk for its alcoholic content. Sometimes Indians were responsible, but more often certain whites.

On the dry goods side of the store were a combination of hardware and yard goods. There were button hooks for high-top shoes. Dad fitted us with shoes from stock. As I have a long, narrow foot, this was harder on me than Clark, whose extremities were a more standard size.

At times, two women would clash over both having purchased identical cloth for a blouse or dress, and appearing at the same social function as twins, especially if they didn't admire each other to begin with.

I don't know if Mother told you that, though the school was new and up-to-date for those times, the children presented some problems at first. Some spoke only German or Norwegian. Ida Sprenger went by Edith her first year in school, because when someone asked her name, she said, "Eda". It was some time before someone in the family could explain that Eda was Ida in English.

Some of the children, although nine or ten, had never attended school before. Others had had a grade or two, but had forgotten much in the interval between schools.

Mother couldn't find a woman to stay with Clark, so she received permission to take him to school with her. He was four at the time he started, five the later part of October.

Of necessity, these first few years, she had to let her pupils go along at their own pace. Most of us in the first grade, on finishing all of the first-grade readers available, progressed to the second grade readers, and by the end of the term were promoted to third grade.

You should have seen our Halloween pumpkins at our school program. You could see the light through the sides, as the pumpkin had been scooped out so thoroughly by the mothers. They weren't taking any chances that any edible part of the pumpkin should be wasted.

The school Christmas tree had real candles on it, fitted into snappers which fastened to each branch. Halved walnut shells, covered with foil garnered from gum wrappers and cigarette packs, were glued together with looped string as hangers, to act as tree decorations. Because of the fire hazard, the tree was lit only once during the Christmas program, with someone acting as fire watcher standing handily by with a pail of water and dipper.

At home, I remember Mother soaking peas and dyeing toothpicks various colors. These were used in lower grade construction projects. One used the pea to join the toothpicks together. All pictures in magazines and newspapers were carefully clipped. It was par for the course to find a hole in the  middle of something you were reading at our house if it was over a week old.

Let's not forget the washing. At first, Mother must have washed by hand; I don't recall because we weren't involved. But later she got a washing machine. This was hand propelled by  a stick on the top of the washer. My brother stationed himself on one side, I on the other. Push-pull… How we hated it! I don't suppose we supplied nearly all the manual labor, but enough to make a lasting impression on me. Another little chore in winter was filling all available tubs and barrels with snow, to be melted inside for soft water. Does this stir any memories of your own?

If you would have a happy family life, remember two things: in matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.