Conducted by Larry J.
Golden Valley, Mercer County, North Dakota
29 September 1975
Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Proofread and Edited by Linda M. Haag
 This is Larry Sprunk, and the following is an interview I had with George Radke of Golden Valley, North Dakota. The interview was held in Mr. Radke’s home in Golden Valley on Monday, September 29th, 1975. It began at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon, and the interview is complete on this cassette.
LS: When did your family come to North Dakota, George?
GR: My folks came in 1887 to what they called the Dakota Territory at that time.
LS: Where did they come from?
GR: They came from South Russia. They came in the fall of 1886 to South Dakota. Tripp, SD.
LS: Did they know anybody that had come over to the United States before they came, do you know?
GR: Well, not really, I don’t think.
LS: Were they married then?
LS: When they came over.
LS: Do you know, did they ever tell you, George, why they left at that time?
GR: Well, they thought this would be a better country and they heard about the grants and the freedom and so on, and they made their home here.
LS: What part of Russia did they come from?
GR: It’s South Russia.
LS: Was it around Odessa, or Bessarabia?
LS: What was your dad’s name?
LS: Daniel Radke. Did any of the family come after them? Did any of your mother’s people or your dad’s people come after them?
GR: My mother’s folks came after that [? 044].
LS: Where was your dad’s homestead located, George?
GR: 14 miles north of Hazen.
LS: That wouldn’t have been on the river yet, would it?
GR: No, it’s about four miles south of there.
LS: Was that a German-Russian settlement up there?
GR: Yes, very much. Of course there weren’t too many there at the time they came.
LS: Well, could they homestead already in 1887, or did they just squat on that land until they passed the Homestead Act?
GR: I guess as far as I know they had a homestead.
LS: Where was their nearest town, then, where they could buy sugar and flour…
GR: Well, [? 057 – New Salem?].
LS: That’s a long jaunt.
GR: I think it was about, oh, close to fifty miles, I guess. It took about two or three days to make a trip to town and back.
LS: What kind of buildings did your dad build?
GR: Just a sod building to start with. Then several years later he built a little stone-like house. It was more substantial. It had a shingle roof on it.
LS: Did they have a family yet when they homesteaded?
GR: My oldest brother was born in South Dakota. I think he was four months old when they moved.
LS: Did your dad come up first and build the sod house, and then go back and get your mother?
GR: I guess they came up together. That’s what I was told. Some people lived there, close by. [? 073-076].
LS: Potatoes, I suppose. Who were some of their neighbors in those early years?
GR: There was one family; I think their name was Schempke. The Richter family, I guess. They lived down by the river bottom. There was a Blanchard. [? 085] or something like that.
LS: Were Schempke and Richter German-Russian?
LS: And they were there when your folks came.
GR: Yes. And on Sundays, I guess they had church in the private houses. Just a few families got together and had church services.
LS: Would they have missionary ministers come through then, from Bismarck or…
GR: They had some of them come in once in awhile from other places, but I couldn’t tell you from where. They’d come for a baptism or something like that.
LS: Do you know, George, if the Baptist minister came through and the people who were there were Lutheran and Methodist, would it make any difference… would they still go?
GR: As far as I know they stayed with their own church.
LS: Did your parents have any experiences with the Indians coming through from the reservation in those early years?
GR: Well, there were some, yes. Then later on they had some [? 109] along the riverbed [? 110…].
LS: But as far as you can remember and from what your folks told you, the relationships between the Whites and the Indians were pretty good.
GR: Yes, they never complained, really about any trouble.
LS: George, one of the fellows at the museum asked me to be sure and ask the people in Mercer County and Oliver County if they could remember any of those towns along the river, steamboat landings like Diopolus and Expansion and Manhaven. Can you remember them yourself?
GR: Yes. In fact, my oldest brother, he’s still living too, but he’s in a rest home. He’s eigty eight years old, but he ran a lumber yard in Manhaven, Expansion, Reis for I. P. Baker.
LS: Is that right?
GR: And then my second oldest brother had a lumber yard in Expansion still in 1916 when my folks sold their farm. He was still there. He had a lumber yard there and [? 132].
LS: Can you remember the steamboat days on the Missouri yourself?
GR: Oh yes. They brought up the lumber and cement, the machinery… [? 137].
LS: What were some of the boats? Can you remember the names of any of the boats?
LS: Were these barges now?
GR: They had boats and they had a barge. [? 143…].
LS: Do you remember the Castalia or the Josephine, or any of those?
GR: No, I don’t. It seems to me one was called Brie [? 149]. My brother could tell you a lot more about this.
LS: Now working from the west, around the river to the east and south, which town was first?
GR: Reis. Expansion was north and east. Manhaven was about four miles south of the river. Then there was Diopolus, which was just [? 161].
LS: Oh, I see. Which of those four would you say was the largest?
GR: I don’t know if there was much difference. I think Manhaven was probably was one of the better ones because at one time they had two general stores there, a lumber yard, a bank, a couple of saloons…
LS: When did those come in? George, were those four towns along the banks of the Missouri when your folks homesteaded in 1887?
GR: No, [? 170].
LS: Did your folks tell you, or do you remember, well that would have been before your time… did your older brothers tell you, were there steamboats going on the Missouri before those towns were put in?
GR: That I don’t know.
LS: But anything that your dad wanted to sell, like grain or any cattle, or if he wanted to buy sugar or flour, he would have to go south to New Salem or…
GR: For the first few years. Or in the wintertime they put across the river to Garrison, because there was ice on the river.
LS: How far would that have been? That was quite a bit closer, wasn’t it?
GR: Oh, that was about twenty five or thirty miles.
LS: So that was still quite a ways. When did that area really begin to get settled, then? Was that in your time?
GR: Let’s see… around 1900, I guess. [? 188…].
LS: Did most of the people that came in, do you think, George, that they intended to stay, or were they just going to improve on their homestead and then sell it?
GR: Most of them intended to stay. There were some who would do that and get a few dollars.
LS: Is that area where your folks homesteaded, is that still pretty well populated?
LS: It is. Was your dad still farming with oxen when you were a boy? Can you remember working with oxen yourself?
GR: No, I can’t. [? 201…].
LS: Was that a breaking plow then?
GR: It was on the same order. See, the breaking plow you know, is longer.
LS: That was a walking plow, not breaking plow.
GR: A walking plow.
LS: I never thought of this before, George. Could you pull a walking plow like you said, on land that had been farmed before, did it take as many horses to pull a walking plow as it did to pull a breaking plow?
GR: A breaking plow usually took three or four horses and two horses for a walking plow.
LS: And that had a faster mulboard [? 221].
LS: Were any of your neighbors using oxen when you were a boy?
GR: No. [? 224…]. They came from Wishek and drove oxen.
LS: That’s German-Russian country too, I guess, down around Wishek. How long did you live in that second house that your dad built with the rock?
GR: Until they left the farm in 1916.
GR: It was a three-room house and then there was a little upstairs on it, enough for bedrooms. My folks had fourteen children.
LS: Is that right?
GR: All of them grew up in that space.
LS: And when they came over from South Russia, they didn’t have any children yet.
GR: No. My oldest brother was born in South Dakota.
LS: So after they came… boy that’s quite a brood. How was that house, George? Was it a warm house?
GR: Warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The walls were two feet thick. At first they even had a mud roof on it. Timber and some brush across it, leaves spread over it. Years later we had a shingle roof. The floors were clay.
LS: Would that get pretty hard, George? Could you sweep it?
LS: Was this sandstone that they would build the walls on?
GR: It was mostly prairie rock… whatever they could pick up. In certain locations they had some sandstone and some of them had fieldstone. Our house was mostly prairie rock.
LS: How would they mix the gumbo then, or the clay to…
GR: Well, they’d throw in a bunch of clay and [? 267…] then they’d get some straw and some water. You’d take a cup of [? 270] and mix in with straw and water.
LS: It would have to be pretty thick, wouldn’t it, to hold?
GR: Yes. You could only build a little at a time.
LS: Would you have to keep on building before it dried? I was wondering if you…
GR: [? 279].
LS: And the straw would kind of bind it together. Would you plaster the outside or the inside too, when you were done?
GR: Yes. Once in awhile in the summer we got some heavy rain and it would wash off, so you’d have to mix a batch of clay and do it over again.
LS: Would it shed water pretty well, though, if it didn’t…
LS: How long do you imagine a house like that would last, George, if you took care of it and plastered it?
GR: I don’t know.
LS: Would you say that a rock and clay house like that would last longer than a sod house?
GR: Of course. [? 293…]. Not too many years ago we could still drive up there and we could still tell where the buildings sat. But it wasn’t kept up… but you could still tell where they were. [? 302].
LS: Were your folks close enough to the Missouri so they didn’t have any real trouble with prairie fires, or did they have prairie fires?
GR: Oh, they had some prairie fires. [? 306…]. Pretty near every fire spread so quickly they’d get out and plow up around the buildings. They call it a fire break so a fire couldn’t get to the buildings.
LS: How were those fires usually started, would you say?
GR: Probably somebody burned their stubble, or cigarettes. [? 319…].
LS: Your brother worked for I. P. Baker, did he George?
LS: Did you ever know I. P. Baker, or meet him?
GR: No, I never did.
LS: How did your brother like working for him? I. P. Baker was kind of a legend, you know.
GR: Oh, he never complained. [? 331…].
LS: Was your brother kind of a manager, then?
LS: Did Baker have elevators or lumber yards at all of these 4 different towns?
GR: Yes. As far as I know, yes. One time I guess he even got started up here further west where Elmo Woods used be. They called it [? 342…].
LS: Do you know, George, if they would send out a boat load of grain from Manhaven, would that go down to Bismarck and then go on a railroad out of Bismarck, or would they take it…
GR: I think, at first then, it seems to me that later on they loaded at Washburn or someplace. [? 353].
LS: Well, then, as far as you know, if they brought lumber out to any of these four towns, Manhaven, Diopolus, Expansion or Reid, they would bring it from the nearest rail point, put it on boats and then take it up the Missouri by steamboat. That wouldn’t come all the way from South Dakota on the Missouri.
GR: No, I don’t suppose. I don’t suppose
so. I don’t think any lumber came from South
Dakota – maybe the West Coast or someplace.
LS: Were there any wood yards, then along the Missouri where they would cut firewood for the…
GR: No, I don’t think so. Later on they [? 369…].
LS: Was there a lot of timber along the Missouri?
GR: Oh yes.
LS: Do you know who ran any of those sawmills, George?
GR: Well, there was a fellow from Stanton, Joe Novak. [? 379…].
LS: Did they have a system to these cottonwood sawmills? Would they let the wood cure for a year before they sawed it up? I’ve been told that green cottonwood, if you cut it and saw it up into boards or planks when it’s green, it’ll warp and twist.
GR: It did do that quite a lot. Some of it was a little too green, I guess.
LS: What did your folks and these other homesteaders around where your dad homesteaded, what would burn for fuel? Would they go down to the river and get wood or would they…
GR: I think they’d go to the river and chop the trees. Pick up some of the older logs and burn them. Then there was coal. [? 396…]. There were about ten farmers. There they bought forty acres of land. There was coal on it. In the spring after the spring’s work, they’d go down there with horses, scrape with plows, and they had all that coal for the winter.
LS: Was that a pretty thick vein?
GR: Oh, no, about three or four feet or so. [? 405…].
LS: You had to work for it.
GR: It was hard work.
LS: How would they do that? Would they plow…
GR: They’d plow [? 410…] then they would slip scrapers and pick it up.
LS: And plow again?
GR: And plow again.
LS: That was a slow process.
GR: Oh, very slow process.
LS: Was there any commercial mining done around?
GR: [? 419…] .
LS: Have you lived in Mercer County most of your life, George?
GR: All of it.
LS: Did the mines in Mercer County, the commercial mines in Mercer County help during the depression?
GR: Oh yes. They employed quite a few people at that time. [? 433…], strip mining, and machine work.
LS: Were they strip mining in the 1930s, or was that undermining?
GR: In the 1930s, I think that’s about the time they were starting to strip mine.
LS: Did you ever work in the mines, George?
GR: Well, I did one time for just a short time. [? 443…]. They were hiring some people. [? 448…].
LS: You had enough of that, huh?
GR: [? 456…].
LS: What company was that?
GR: Lucky Strike they used to call it at that time.
LS: And they had the mine at Zap and another one down at Haynes. Was your dad mostly a farmer, George, or was he more of a cattleman?
GR: They had some cows, but mostly farming. They had fourteen or sixteen horses. We had a tractor.
LS: Were there any steam breaking outfits in Mercer County, you know steam tractors?
GR: [? 176].
LS: Did they do custom plowing, or would they just plow…
GR: Yes, they did some. [? 482…]. If they got in s soft spot, they’d get stuck and it took several days to get out.
LS: Yes, I’ll bet if you got stuck with one of those you’d be there awhile. How were those early years, George, with a family of fourteen? Was it kind of hard for your folks to make ends meet, or were the crops good?
GR: Yes, it was rough. There wasn’t much money to spend. We went to town probably once or twice a year. The kids went away. We’d just skimp. [? 498] I don’t think I saw a show until I was sixteen or seventeen years old.
LS: That would have been about 1914, right? Did the railroad coming through here make a big difference?
GR: Oh, definitely. [? 505].
LS: Did that have an effect, then on Manhaven and the river towns?
GR: Oh yes. After that they started drying up.
LS: Is there anything left of any of those towns?
GR: They’re all under water, I mean the lake, like Expansion and Reid are under water on the river bank.
LS: Would Diopolus…
GR: I don’t know if there is anything there at the base. There used to be an old elevator sitting there a few years back. And Manhaven, of course, that’s under water. That was below the dam. I don’t know… I haven’t been over there for so many years. [? 524….].
LS: Did those river towns hang on for a few years after the railroad, or did they…
GR: Yes, they were there a few years.
LS: In the earlier years, when your brother was working, managing for I. P. Baker, would they have a regular steamboat scheduled? Would they come in once a week or twice a week?
GR: Oh, I don’t think they had a schedule. It was just whenever it was necessary. [? 537…].
LS: And your brother worked for him mostly in Manhaven.
LS: Did you work there too? You mentioned that you were there a few…
GR: No, that was after… my second brother had the lumber yard there in Expansion. [? 546…].
LS: Were the steamboats owned by Baker too, or just the elevators and lumber yards and businesses?
GR: The steamboats too.
LS: He had the whole system, huh?
GR: [? 553…] was one of the captains.
LS: Marsh wasn’t still…
GR: Marsh was one.
LS: Who did he have for laborers on the steamboats? Were they North Dakotans, or…
GR: Well, I imagine [? 563…]. They’d carry the lumber out and put it up on the riverbank, then put it on the wagon and haul it up there. [? 571…]. I went to a dance Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Sunday night I got home after midnight, about 4:00 my brother was calling me. He says, “Get up. There are two carloads of cement lying down on the riverbed, and it looks like rain.” So we had to haul in two carloads of cement that day, pick it up off the road, put it on the wagon, pick it up and pile it up.
LS: Did you sleep pretty good Monday night?
GR: I don’t remember if I slept at all. [laughter]
LS: Would that be mostly the social activity, dances and barns…
GR: Yes. There was the 4th of July celebration and horse races, foot races, and things like that.
LS: When you look back to those years, George, do you think that people were more sociable and neighborly and friendly then than they are today?
GR: I believe they were. They were happy too.
LS: Would they work together and help each other more then?
GR: Oh yes. [? 605…]. Harvest time, threshing time, we’d go… there were about 6 or 7 other farmers there. They’d thrash together. They ran it by horses.
LS: Did that work out pretty good, owning it together?
GR: It seemed to. It took a lot of effort. [? 618…]
LS: Were there enough farmers, and did the farmers have enough boys to make up a threshing crew, or did they have to hire somebody else?
GR: Well, we all had big families in those days, it seems like.
LS: George, I wanted to ask you… did your mother have a doctor when her children were born?
GR: A midwife.
LS: Who was the midwife?
GR: Well, usually the neighbors. My mother was also a midwife. You know after we came to Golden Valley out here, she often mentioned, she said, “I wish I’d have kept track of all the children I brought into this world.” I know it’s over a hundred. She’d be on the road, sometimes, in the wintertime… people 5 or 6 miles away would come and get her. [? 644…]
LS: How many brothers and sisters… I know there were 14 in your family. How many boys and how many girls?
GR: Ten boys and four girls.
LS: So your dad had more help than your mother did.
GR: In those days it didn’t make much difference. Girls would help milk; my mother even did it when we were smaller. The girls also stacked hay.
LS: As the children were growing up and your brothers and sisters were growing up, when they reached a certain age, would they start working out, or…
GR: Well, a few of them did. My older brother was a [? 668] as soon as he got old enough.
LS: Did you farm yourself, George?
GR: No, I didn’t. [? 675…]. In the 1940s I farmed about three years. [? 681…]. I worked in the bank 4 years, and the insurance business, and the hardware store for 16 years.
LS: Most of those years when you were in different years or working in the bank, or running the bulk station, was that here in Golden Valley?
GR: [? 693] I worked in the bank from 1919 until 1923. [? 698].
LS: George, the fellow at the museum asked me to ask another question. What would happen to stock holders in a bank when the bank went under?
GR: Well, they lost their money, most of them. It was put into receivership and… but there were a lot of bad people in the banks in those days. They didn’t collect too much of it. [? 711…]. Of course the thing was at that time, when these banks closed… there were thirteen banks in Mercer County. There were three of them in this town. They were all too anxious to loan out money and get customers and they overdid it. They didn’t watch their security. I think they whittled down to about 3 banks in the county.
LS: Did all three of them in Golden Valley go under?
GR: Yes. Well, one of them, I think it was in 1922. The first one that consolidated was Equins State Bank, then the First State Bank in 1933, and then in 1934 the other one, the Farmer’s Bank.
LS: If a man who was a stockholder for a bank that went under, would he have to be held responsible for that bank’s… I mean would he have to contribute money to cover that bank’s…
GR: No, they didn’t have to. At that time the deposits weren’t guaranteed like it is now. So the depositors lost.
LS: And the stockholders lost whatever they invested.
LS: Did the people understand, do you think, George, why the banks were going under, or did they hold it against…
GR: Well, some of them did. Some blamed the cashier in some cases. They kind of went in the real estate business. Sold these farmers some land at a pretty good price.... they took your note for the farmer. Then they sold this note to the bank for cash. That’s what broke a lot of them.
LS: Did a lot of people lose their shirts from the banks going under, or did most people not have enough money to…
GR: Well, not too many. Some old people had their life savings in there, but [? 767].
LS: When you think back to the 1920s and 1930s, particularly the 1930s, do you remember people getting pretty discouraged and down in the mouth?
GR: Oh yes. There was the drought and [? 775…] sold some cattle there for almost nothing. It was rough.
LS: Was the Non-partisan League a popular political party in Mercer County?
GR: Yes, they were pretty strong for awhile. I didn’t pay much attention to politics, especially at that time.
LS: Would that have been more popular in the country, do you think, than in town? Were most of the townspeople IVA?
GR: Oh yes. [? 799…].
LS: Were there hard feelings because of that, do you think, George between the townspeople…?
GR: Oh, some, yes.
LS: How about the Farm Holiday Association? Do you remember that?
GR: Yes, I remember. They had some here too. [? 814…] had to prove their mortgages on their livestock. They couldn’t collect a thing… it didn’t turn out.
LS: Did that Farm Holiday Association stop any mortgage auction sales in Mercer?
GR: They did [? 826...] but some people bid on the stuff and got in trouble.
LS: How about holding actions? Did they try to persuade farmers not to sell their grain, or not sell their cream?
GR: [? 835…]. They had to sell in order to live.
LS: Well you’re doing fine so far. How did social life change from when you were maybe eight or ten year old up through the 1920s and 1930s? Was it still pretty much dancing in the wintertime?
GR: Well, pretty much, yes. Pretty much the same.
LS: Was baseball a popular summer event?
GR: Oh yes. Most of the towns had a baseball team. [? 857…].
LS: Would each town have a particular rival that they had to beat?
GR: Not so much. They just tried to beat them.
LS: How about the towns… I suppose the towns on the river they would have been folded up by then. I was wondering if they ever had baseball teams like Manhaven?
GR: I don’t think so.
LS: The other thing I was wondering about… those towns on the river like Manhaven and Diopolus and Expansion, would they have quite a few people living in town there, or would it be just the businesses?
GR: Just the business people.
LS: And, George, how were the elevators set up along the river? Could they transfer… could they bring grain in wagons, unload at the elevator and load into the steamboat from the elevators?
GR: They were set up right by the riverbank, the elevators, and they had rip-rapped the banks with rocks. [? 897].. It was mostly all hauled in grain sacks. They dumped the sacks in the elevator and then from the elevator spout and down onto the barge or boats.
LS: Did they ever have any trouble in the spring with floods?
GR: No. That was quite a high bank, and like I said, it was all rip-rapped.
LS: Did they have any sort of a steam engine running chains, you know?
GR: [? 918]..
LS: So they could bring it up high enough to send it right down a tube into the steamboats.
GR: You mean the…
LS: The grain. I mean the grain.
GR: Oh yes. They had a spout. They had some kind of a telescoping thing [? 926…].
LS: Was a lot of grain shipped out of those towns like Manhaven?
GR: Oh yes. Sometimes at sunrise there would be twenty or thirty teams lined up there waiting to unload. Everybody wanted to get there first. They’d work into the night unloading grain.
LS: You know it’s hard for me to picture how steamboats and barges going up and down the Missouri with lumber and grain on. Was the river deeper then than it is now?
[end of side A – begin side B now]
GR: … those sandbars…
LS: Did they have any boats that just did that?
GR: Well, no. [? 005] would come and get boats.
LS: They’d just have to sit there until some help came along.
GR: [? 008…].
LS: How would the lumber work then? You mentioned that one night that you had to move concrete that was brought in with it. Would there be a landing, then, right by the river?
GR: Yes, there was some kind of a level place.
LS: I’m trying to talk his leg off [laughter]. The guys on the boat would just be responsible for taking the lumber or the cement up to this landing, and you’d have to get it from there.
LS: Were there any flour mills in any of those river towns?
GR: There was a flour mill at Krim. This was an inlet, further in a little. That was about six or seven miles [? 024]. There was a store there, two stores and a flour mill. The farmers would get a load of wheat, get the flour ground up, and mill the flour. There would be twenty sacks by the time the flour was ground up.
LS: And Krim was about eight miles…
GR: Further east. It was about six or seven miles east.
LS: Which would make it how many miles south of the river?
GR: Oh, about eight miles, I think.
LS: So it was kind of half way between Hazen and the river. Do you remember, George, who ran that flour mill?
GR: Sam Mueller.
LS: Was that steam powered?
GR: That, I’m not sure.
LS: And you said there was a store there too.
GR: Yes. And a post office.
LS: Did he run the store?
GR: No. At one time there was a Frank… Morris Frank had the store there for awhile. He was a Jew.
LS: It sounded like a Jewish name.
GR: [? 041].
LS: Was that the kind of a mill, George, where a farmer could bring in a load of wheat and get his own wheat ground into flour for himself?
GR: Sure. He’d bring in a load of wheat. He’d get the flour and he’d get the bran or the chaff; he’d get that back for feed. He’d mix that up and give it to the chickens, ducks, cattle or horses. He wouldn’t have to use so much grain that way.
LS: Seems to me, George, that somebody told me that a flour mill that they took wheat to, they could also get, besides the flour and the bran, the wheat germ. There were three different kinds of… the wheat would be ground up and they’d get three different things: the flour, the middlings or the bran, and also a wheat germ or something. Do you remember that?
GR: No, I don’t remember anything but the wheat flour and the bran.
LS: Another thing I was wondering about, how much flour would your dad go and get in the fall for fourteen ...of course he wouldn’t have fourteen kids all at the same time.
GR: I’d say he’d get about a ton.
LS: That’s a lot of flour!
GR: It’s about a year’s supply. [? 064]. He’d store it up there and hope the mice didn’t get into it.
LS: You know, George, about two years ago my wife went to the grocery store… she bakes bread and donuts and stuff like that, and she went to the grocery store and I think she got a 100 pounds of flour or something like that, and the guy at the grocery store said to be careful that you don’t buy too much flour because if you buy too much, by the time you get to the bottom of the bag it will be wormy. Now you said that your dad would get a ton of flour at one time. Did you ever have trouble with the flour getting wormy?
GR: You had to keep it in a dry place. [? 072]. I suppose it could get bad, it could happen.
LS: But you never had any trouble with it.
GR: No, not that I remember.
LS: What else would your folks do to be as self sufficient as they could? Would they have a big garden, or…
GR: Oh yes. [? 079] a little corn… put up a barrel of sauerkraut.
GR: [? 085] a barrel of brine, then towards spring they’d take the hams and bacon out, smoke them and eat all summer.
LS: How long could you leave the hams and shoulders in that brine?
GR: Oh, [? 088]. You would get it quite sour otherwise.
LS: Would you float an egg in it? Is that how they…
GR: Six or seven months.
LS: So say you butchered a couple of hogs in November. You could put the shoulders and hams in that brine and leave them in there until March?
LS: And then smoke them, and they could make it through the summer. Did you ever have any of the smoked meat go rancid or bad?
GR: Not really. [? 100…]. Like those little refrigerators. I remember we had one. We’d butcher a little pig, and we had a well about thirty or forty feet deep. We’d put some of that in a container and let it down in the well. That way you could keep it in the cold water and keep it for a week or so.
LS: Was that well dug by hand?
LS: Forty or fifty feet deep?
GR: Thirty or forty, I’d say.
LS: Did they shore up the sides, then with rock?
GR: No they put a wood [? 113] in there.
LS: Was that good water?
GR: Oh yes. It was real good and cold.
LS: Was that true of the places around your place?
LS: Everybody had pretty good water.
GR: In the later years, of course, some of them drilled wells. But in the early years they were all dug by hand. Unless, of course, in places where it was too deep. [? 124…]
LS: Kind of a slow process, huh?
GR: You betcha!
LS: They didn’t ever hit any bad gas, did they?
GR: It happened a few times. One or two persons got killed. [? 129]
LS: How did your mother put up beef, or wasn’t beef butchered as much in those days?
GR: Very little. Very little, it seemed like. [? 134].
LS: Had your family put in a root cellar, or did they have a cellar below?
GR: They had a root cellar. [? 136]. We had a big root cellar. Cabbage… [? 140]. My mother used to wrap it real tight in newspapers and store it in a cool dry place, and it would last quite a while into the winter.
LS: Oh, is that right? You know, I was wondering…
GR: And carrots, put them in dry sand and put them in the root cellar and they’d be good until the next summer then.
LS: Oh. I was thinking this afternoon, on the way over here, George, if people in the early years had as much trouble with their gardens, with cutworms and bugs and stuff as they do today.
GR: I don’t think so. It didn’t seem that way.
LS: You know, I put in parsnips and…. Well, they didn’t bother my parsnips, but I put in turnips and rutabagas and radishes this summer and as soon as the turnips and rutabagas started getting pretty big, they got these little tiny white worms in every one of them. Did you ever have trouble with that?
GR: No, but we had some other bugs, some little black bugs. [? 157] They’d eat cabbage.
LS: Could your mother make her own cottage cheese, do you remember?
GR: Oh yes.
LS: My mother used to make cottage cheese…
GR: She’d make some other cheese and let the cottage cheese ferment. She’d put salt in and it was something like limburger cheese. It was pretty strong. We went for that, we kids.
LS: That was a real treat, huh? I think anybody who has had homemade cottage cheese is spoiled, because I don’t like bought cottage cheese after my mother’s homemade. That was a lot better than bought. Did your mother sew, George?
GR: Yes. [? 174… ] We’d buy whole bolts of yard goods.
LS: A whole bolt?
GR: Yes, of percales and stuff. She’d make shirts and stuff for the kids.
LS: Well, I guess she would need a whole bolt for as many kids as you had. Were flour sacks used a lot too, for sheets and…
GR: Oh yes. She always had flour sacks and sugar sacks. We had these burlap sacks outside and we had a white sack inside so it was double. We used [? 186].
LS: When did the patterned sacks come in, George? I can remember when I was a kid in the 1940s, my mother used to take me along… well, she’d take my brother and I along and we’d go into town to buy chicken feed or a supplement for the calves. All the sacks would have different patterns. She would say, okay, pick out the pattern you want for a shirt. we’d pick out a pattern and she’d buy two sacks of chicken feed in the same pattern.
GR: Gosh, I can’t remember that.
LS: Oh? The sacks were all white in the early days. Did that flour mill at Krim have a brand name? They didn’t sell flour…
GR: Oh, I don’t think so. It was just local. We had a flour mill here too. That came in here in 1916. It burned in 1918. A flour mill and a [? 201].
LS: Who ran that?
GR: Tony Hess was his name. He’d turn the lights on when it got dark and run until midnight.
LS: Was the flour mill powered by electricity, or was it powered by the same engines that generated electricity?
LS: Was that a roller mill or a stone mill?
GR: It was a stone mill.
LS: When that burned, then, in 1918, did you say, was that the end of the electricity too?
GR: No, then we got electricity. The lines… the electric company started.
LS: Was that in Beulah?
GR: Yes, Beulah.
LS: And that was a private outfit.
GR: That’s when the coal plants were started.
LS: Did that supply electricity then, George, until REA came?
LS: When did the telephone come into this country?
GR: The telephone was in before… I remember we had a telephone and radio on the farm in 1916 when I left the farm.
LS: Is that right?
GR: It was before I left the farm… it must have been around 1914 or 1915.
LS: Where was your central out of then, Beulah?
GR: Hazen was where it started. [? 227].
LS: Now the railroad got to Kildeer, I was told, in 1914, and it got to… I think Grace Smith told me in Dodge this morning that she thought it got to Dodge and Golden Valley in 1913. When did it…?
GR: It stopped about a mile east of here. [? 233.]
LS: It didn’t quite make it to Golden Valley in 1913, then. When did it hit Beulah, then? Would that have been 1913?
LS: And that’s when the phone line went up from Beulah up to…
GR: [? 237].
LS: That phone that your dad had on the farm, was that a co-op phone that the farmers got together?
GR: The farmers, yes. [? 239].
LS: One other question, George, and then I’ll shut her off. You’ve been in Mercer County all your life and now there are a lot of people in North Dakota who feel one way or feel the other way about coal development. Some of them think it’s the greatest economic promise that North Dakota could ever have and the other ones see it as a real threat to our future. How do you feel about coal development?
GR: Well, I don’t know. I think it’s probably good for the employment, with the new restoration laws they put in last spring. It could restore the ground again, but some of the topsoil might go out in a few years I think. It probably won’t be quite as good as it was, but it should be close, so I don’t see why it’s going to hurt.
LS: Be so terrible.
GR: It could be a good thing, really.
[end of taping session – 255 Side B]