If I crow a little bit it's because they told me I was born in the chicken coop. It really was the bedroom of an old house which was later used as the chicken coop after the new house was built on Minnesota Highway 7 between Cosmos and Lake Lillian in Kandiyohi County . I was born May 5, 1911.
At age four I remember going with Mom and Dad by train to Meadow, South Dakota to visit Dad's half sister whose married name was Elizabeth (Lizzie) HillRoy Watson's wife's mother. They lived in a sod house in the country. Roy had two childrenNeoma and Alvin . Neoma and I were the same age and we had a lot of fun. We took our baths in a laundry tub outside.
After Roy 's wife or mother died (I don't remember for sure) March 5 1916, Sis Elizabeth went out there and worked for them. She brought Neoma home with her one summer and Neoma came down with the small pox which she must have picked up on the train. I don't remember being very sick but some of the family were very sick and it was harvest time. We were quarantined for many weeks. Groceries had to be delivered and dropped out by a tree. There was no way we could let Roy know. So after several weeks we drove miles to mail a letter in a country mail box after steaming it to sterilize it. Later, Elizabeth and Roy married.
I attended Riverside School District 89 in the country. We had two miles to school. In the springtime when the river flooded over we had to go around, so made it two and a half miles. When it was real cold in the winter Dad or an older brother would take us in the bobsled. Once, in March, walking home I froze my ears. Reason: I had a new tarn I was bound to wear and it turned real cold that day. Glen and I carried our lunch to school in half gallon syrup pails. In winter they were placed by the pot bellied stove to thaw. If they got too warm the covers started popping. During the World War there was righting in school and some of us were called pro-German. Lots of snow balls flew too. The Crow River went right by our school so when the ice was clear we could walk half a mile from home and skate to school. We also had sleds, and went down one bank and up the other during noon hour. One Halloween the outdoor toilets were tipped over, the cloak rooms filled with hay, and the teacher's desk coated with tar. We had to help clean them!
In 1919 all my sisters were married. Rose and Elizabeth had planned a double wedding in February but Rose was so sick with scarlet fever or flu that her marriage was postponed to March. Rose had made the wedding dresses which were beaded. That same year we had our first car, a Maxwell, which was pretty special. On the north side of the house there were apple trees-Whitney, crab and others; we had compass cherries, red and yellow plums; Dad raised popcorn and navy beans. He had a favorite saying: "The one you pop before you eat and the other after."
He loved tomatoes and would eat a plateful with cream and sugar on it. The well between the house and the barn served as our refrigerator as well as our source of drinking water. We would lower a pail holding_mllk, butter, cream to keep cool.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving (1920) Mom, Dad and I were going to walk across the fields to see a neighbor. Dad went ahead to check a granary we had at a vacant farm place where we rented the land. It was the only building there, as I remember. Mother had trouble walking. It was a plowed field, partly, and just a little snow. Her left leg kept sliding under her. She fell and couldn't get up. She started vomiting. I ran calling Dad and he heard and came fast as he could. My brother Glen and a friend were skating on a slough which an irrigation ditch came from. Dad told me to run and get him. The only car home then was a small Saxon. He got that but fences had to be taken down. Anyway, no way could we get mother in that so they went to the neighbor we were to visit. There was just a Grandpa there who had a team on a wagon and they got that in there and took Mom home in that. They put her in a rocker and got her in the living room and she slid right out. She had a stroke and her whole left side was paralyzed for over three years. I was nine years old when she had the stroke and twelve when she died. During that time I did a lot of cooking, baking, washing, etc. My brother Otto and I took turns staying home with her when the family all had to be gone. We had what we called a hired girl part of the time. I even baked pies, etc. for the threshing crews. I wrote letters for my mother to her sister Rosa Van Lengen who lived in Florida , and to her sister Emma Aggen in Wisconsin . My mother's sister Bertha and her husband Pete Zwagerman and their two daughters, Anna and Bertha, used to come from Iowa to visit us on the farm in Lake Lillian . They would bring Otto and me beautiful shiny picture books which was so special. Anna and Bertha, our cousins, played beautiful piano duet for us. It was real special to have them come. One time when they came I was washing clothes under the apple trees with the old washing machine we pumped by hand; later we used a gasoline engine to run it. When I was little, Rose and Elizabeth melted snow for washing clothes and used a washboard in a laundry tub in the kitchen.
In 1923 while a crew was threshing on our place, Dad was hauling the grain to Cosmos. After one load he stopped at the pump between the house and the barn to get a drink. We were on the back porch, Mom too, and Dad was laughing and joking. He drove out to the threshing machine, backed up to the rig perfectly to get another load and sunk down with the reins in his hands. He had a heart attack and was gone. This was a terrible shock to mother. This was September and she only lived to December. Brother Leo and Ellen had wedding plans for a few days later and went ahead as Ellen was working for us at that time. I kept going to school there that winter living with them. I remember that Rose made a beautiful black satin dress for me for mother’s funeral.
She sewed many dresses for me. I especially remember a sailor dress with a red middy and navy blue pleated skirt. The next summer I stayed with Sis Rose who was living in a log house south of Atwater . In the fall or late summer I went to live with the Jesse Summerlets who were named Otto’s and my guardians. While there I went to the Thorp school and graduated from the eighth grade. I liked spelling. I won in that and was to go to Willmar for a spelling bee but didn’t go. I worked for Summerlets the next summer for $4.00 a week and room and boardworked a lot in the vegetable garden and played lots of horseshoes and checkers, etc. I made that my home until I was 15. They were members of the little Methodist church in the country which could be seen from the Allie Anderstroms and I sometimes attended church there with them.
Dad Gauer was musical. He and my brothers played violins and other instruments. I would chord and play by ear. In 1926 it was decided I should go to McPhail School of Music in Minneapolis as Clarence was attending Northwestern Bible School there. I was to take piano lessons. Sis Lillian had given me about seven lessons I believe, maybe less, but I practiced on my own and the teacher down there put me in the 3rd book which I wasn’t ready for. Clarence had found a place for me to work for room and board. Well, the landlady of the house (who made cosmetics) had to go to Rochester (she had cancer, etc.) and Clarence got sicknervous breakdown or just fatigueand had to quit and go home. He took me to some other friends but I was so homesick we both went back home. So my experience at McPhail consisted of three whole lessons. Clarence had this little Saxon car he managed to get out on Highway 7 and then asked me to drive. He was really in tough shape. There was only about one track in the snow and I drove the 80 or 90 miles. I stayed at Summerlets again. They had even had a going away party for me before I left. I got over $9.00 and bought an all leather large suitcase with it.
That fall, Brother Leo and Summerlets brought me to St. Cloud . I had received literature from the St. Cloud Business College and enrolled there. Boy were they strick on penmanship! You wouldn’t know that by my writing now. I went two winters taking typing, shorthand, machines, etc. I worked for room and board, the second winter walking from August Ziturs ( 1102-16th Ave. S. ) to downtown every day, sometimes in deep snow. There were no sidewalks out that far then. I was a dumb country kid but they liked my cooking. Haha. (The first year at Business College I stayed at 114-14th Ave. S. and worked for room and board at the Paul Koshiols. After finishing Business College I went back to Summerlets; the school called in a few weeks or so to say they had a job for me which was at the St. Cloud Laundry in the office. The laundry was located on 5th Ave. S. in the 200 block and I roomed and boarded at Nick Barren’s at 3 5th Ave. S.
Several college girls roomed there, too. My roommate worked downtown.
Rudy Strand had an auto paint shop in the same building as the laundry up on the third floor. He had his laundry done where I worked, but I didn't meet him until my roommate got me to go to a fireman's ball one night and he was there. He asked me to dance and I told him I didn't know how, which was the truth. Later a nephew of the man who ran the business college didn't take "no" for an answer when he asked me to dance, and seeing us, Rudy thought I didn't think he was good enough, so to prove it he asked me to go to the show with him, which I did. We went to the show almost every week after that as long as we could. Our courtship was only six months. When we became engaged we were going to wait one and a half years but he told me he could leave that summer for a honeymoon to the Black Hills and > Yellowstone Park because his brother Elmer could take over the business at that time. As neither of us had parents to ties, we decided to get married that June 27, 1929. He had at that time a 1926 Essex which he would let me take girl friends riding in when he was working. Of course Summerlets and my sisters and brothers were very surprised as I had been going with someone from out home for several years.
Rudy and I were the first ones to be married in the then new Evangelical Church on 7th Ave. and 6th St. S. , St. Cloud . Years later they merged with the United Brethren and it was called Grace E.U.B. Still later merged with the Methodist and is now Grace United Methodist. Elmer Strand and Ann Shore were our wedding attendants (they were married the next year). We had no music or anything at our wedding as we had planned to be married in the parsonage. No guests either. Mrs. Barren (my landlady) and Mrs. Beaver gave me a linen shower,inviting the girls from the laundry. Mrs. Barren also went to Mpls. with Rudy and me to get my wedding dress, shoes and hat. We had a great honeymoon to the Black Hills and Yellowstone Park . Spent our first wedding night at the Curtis Hotel in Mpls.; Rudy was acquainted down there as he had worked for Bako Auto Paint Company on Lake St. E. where he learned the spray painting technique.
When we got back to St. Cloud we had an apartment in the 800 block on 3rd Ave. S. upstairs in a fairly new stucco houseBen Engelhard's home. Elmer worked for Rudy at the paint shop so he boarded with us. Then we bought a little grocery store on 9th St. S. across from the old college athletic field so I helped there. Later Elmer took it over but didn't keep it too long. We even fried hamburgers for some of the college kids toward the last.. I would walk down the alley from the house to the store which was between 2nd and 3rd Aves.
The other big event of 1929 was the stock market crash. Rudy and Elmer had bought some stock so I had to
listen to the radio and call them whenever the report was given. They sold it and got out okay. That was the beginning of the depression which lasted about 12-13 years. So it was tough sledding raising a family, but guess we didn't notice. As for me, I was used to not having much. They were some of the happiest years.
In 1930 we moved upstairs in a couple of rooms at Barrens and shortly after Rudy took a job with Bako Paint Co. to paint Standard Oil trucks in North and South Dakota and Montana . Before we were to leave we rented a cabin on Spunk Lake by Avon with Elmer and Ann. Rudy got what he called lumbago in his back and when we left for the west he had to crawl in and out of the car. We pulled an air compressor behind our old Essex (1926) which looked like a torpedo. Also took a man (Nick Peters) along who drove a Standard Oil truck with the paint and supplies. Most of the time we slept in the car as we could put the front seats back and had a mattress to put over. Nick slept on the side of the truck as there was space alongside the tank. We spent a week or so in a park at Minot , North Dakota . It was beautiful there, and we had a cabin there. That summer was really something. My Brother Clarence was living in Great Falls , Montana (unmarried then) and organizing Sunday schools in the foot hills. I stayed with him several days while the men were painting trucks in that area. I also went with him to the Sunday schools and ^- homes in the foot hills. I was surprised at how those people lived; they had to boil water from slough holes for drinking and all. Also saw the copper smeltering in Great Falls at that time (and again in 1966 when we visited there on our trip to Glacier, etc.)
While painting trucks in Roundup, Montana we were parked alongside the bulk plant and had bedded down in the car to sleep. We had checked out some cabins and found bed bugs so decided to sleep in the car. Someone rapped on the window and said "open up" and when Rudy did, the guy thrust a gun in his face. What a scare! It was the highway patrol or police officer. The Standard Oil agent didn't get a permit for us and was supposed to let them know. Anyway with that air compressor looking like a torpedo and the shed door open it must have looked suspicious. The next night we took a cabin! Haha. I also spent a few days in Meadow, South Dakota with Sis Elizabeth and family who lived there at that time while the men were painting some miles from there. While there I got a nosebleed that didn't want to stop. When we got to Billings , Montana we were broke and had to wire for money. We met another couple there who were also out painting for Bako. There was a rodeo in town but we didn't even get to go to that. Nick Peters went back home when we were in Billings and Rudy hired a young man there.
One place in our travels we had to ferry across a river on a flat raft. Nothing but Indians around in a town nearby. Also when we stayed in a hotel in one place didn't
see a woman in the town. Rudy and man went out early next morning to paint and I stayed in bed. Was scared stiff when I heard someone try to get in my room. Well, anyway, on the way home again we went across some rough country. No man's land. Just Indians. You could see fires burning here and there and it rained and rained; it was all gumbo and we got stuck many times. We finally had to leave the air compressor when we had to cross a creek, and had to clean the gumbo out from between the fenders and wheels. We finally made it to a town late that night and had to go back for the air compressor the next day. We sure were glad to get on the monotonous pavement back to Minnesota again. When we got back to St. Cloud we got a two room apartment on 7th Ave. S. (200 block) in an old brick house. (Mrs. Hemberger was our landlady.) Anything looked good to us that we could call home!