Stories in the Rear View Mirror

Delta Daggett

I realize that my generation was lucky enough to grow up in the time period following World War II, where many countries joined together as allies to defeat the evil aspirations of Hitler and the Emperor of Japan. The citizens of the USA did not want to enter another war with the horror of WWI still fresh in their minds. However,  the generation of our parents, patriotically sacrificed, by willingly joining the military or turning our country into a war machine producing the goods and services to defeat the free world’s enemies. 

The draft was phasing out and the world was generally at peace with the constant threat of Russia’s expansion of communism in the background. I do remember Russia’s Premier Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev in the 1950s coming up with a new five-year plan about every two years, which would enable communism “to bury the West.” It just doesn’t work. Never has and never will, but there is always a very small group of people who think it should be tried again. Venezuela is the latest example.

In a previous column, I wrote about our neighborhood. I did not mention that during my first five years we lived across the street from my Grandpa and Grandma Daggett. I was over at their place much of the time. I always ate breakfast at home, but noon and evening meals, I would check with Mom to see what she was having and then check with Grandma Daggett. I always ate where it sounded the best. The desert was usually the deciding factor.    

Roger Harmer and I were best friends and we did much together. I remember standing in their kitchen making ourselves a treat. A slice of white bread, butter it, then pour ketchup or sugar on it, fold the bread over and eat it as a sandwich. Of course it tasted good, but don’t try to give me one now. 

We would camp in a tent on the banks of Town Lake where houses now stand.  The field next to the lake was owned by Helmer Carlson, the Texaco station owner, and had cows and a tired bull in it with loose fencing.  Sometimes the cows would visit us.

The circus came to town every summer and would set up in the big area behind the two Frazee School buildings.

The Harmer house is gone now but it was right across from the Methodist church. The night before the circus came to town, we would set up our tent and camp in their front yard, so we would be the first locals to be hired on to work for the circus, such as helping to set up different displays, pulling on the ropes to raise the big tent and other tasks. Because we were there so early, I often was assigned to direct the vans and trucks for the circus as they came up the hill from downtown and into the driveway by the water tower.  In the early years, we got free tickets and probably a soda. Later on, we negotiated for cash. 

Sometimes, looking for something to do, we would search trash cans and road gutters and ditches for empty pop bottles. (Aluminum cans were not here yet.) The grocers would give us 2 cents per bottle, as that is what they got from the bottling companies. Five bottles made a dime, which was turned into candy, pop, ice cream or we would walk into Ketter’s Meat Market and get a wiener and then walk out the door eating it—no cooking, bun, mustard or ketchup. 

Ruff King delivered groceries in town. Mothers would call the grocery store they traded at by 10 a.m. and order their groceries for the day. Ruff would pickup at the four grocery stores and deliver the groceries to the homes. In the summer, he used horses and a 4-wheel wagon. In the winter, he used his truck. Roger and I would often help him in the summer. We would enter the store and pick up the filled wooden crates with the customer’s name on them and take them to the wagon.  Then, as Ruff traveled the town delivering the groceries, we would take turns at each house. We would carry the box of groceries into the home, empty the groceries onto the table, visit with the lady, in case she wanted to give us a cookie, pick up the empty crate and snap it so it would collapse and go flat. Then it was back to the wagon and onto the next house.   Ruff gave us each a dime each day we helped and occasionally a treat of a bottle of pop. 

In later years, I would cover for Roger on his evening paper route when he was out of town or sick. 

Roger was a year older and the first one to turn his bicycle into a car. He got a 1937 blue four-door Chevy. If we gathered enough friends and each gave him a quarter for gas, he would drive us to Detroit Lakes for a Dairy Queen, an A&W Root Beer,  or to stand by the fence outside the roller rink and try to talk girls into stopping to talk as they skated by. Occasionally we were successful, but that’s another story.

Roger became a school teacher and his first job was in Lake Park in about 1961-62. He and his wife, Karen lived in Lake Park. When they needed a babysitter, they often used high school student and farm girl, Karen Nelson. The same Karen Nelson and I met several years later in Nov. 1973, and are still married (48 years) after putting two families together the following year. 

This column is maybe a little personal, but we town kids all had an easy time.  Cutting grass, weeding the garden, shoveling snow, doing the dishes,  helping with Saturday house cleaning, mowing the lawn (including the two grandmothers), were about the only chores we had. No serious work until we were 15-16 and found summer jobs.

Delta Daggett

My grandmothers lived three-to-four blocks from our house. Dad had a reel type power lawnmower that was very heavy for a 9-11-year-old skinny kid to lift­—all steel, no aluminum or plastic in those days. I found a board and would place my wagon in a ditch and put the board in place and the steer the mower onto the wagon, then pull the wagon with my bicycle.   When I arrived at my grandma’s I would tip the wagon over to unload. 

I also spent time playing baseball and learning to run when we were almost caught doing something we should not have been doing.  One friend learned to run so fast that the game warden no longer chased him. One time, when he came home, he walked into the kitchen and there was the game warden and his mother drinking coffee at the kitchen table. They were waiting for him to come home. No name will be revealed but he did spend much of his working life in area law enforcement.