Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
'Along the Way' by William E. Leppa, written in 1975
In January of 1917, I went to the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture at the St. Paul campus. There I studied agronomy, vegetable gardening, blacksmithing, animal husbandry, civics, or something like humanities now. I belonged to a singing group that put on a musical called "The Mikado." Also, there was a literary society. Those were happy days, but World War I was just over the horizon.
In 1917, Pa bought 60 acres across the road from Garland Robinson for $2,500. That year we also bought a milking machine, as by that time we were milking 30 cows. As usual, Pa had the agency for the Perfection Milking Machine, and sold quite a few, so our own did not cost so much.
That summer, we put up some hoops in Sorvari's pasture and started to play basketball, as I had learned how at the farm school. Bill Ruotsinoja had also been away to Suomi College at Hancock, Mich., and learned how.
The winter of 1917 before Christmas, Pa bought a Delco light plant, and we had electric lights for our first time. What a joyful Christmas that was.
That spring Pa bought a second-hand Ford touring car. We needed a second car because Pa by this time was managing the Farmers Cooperative Grain Elevator in Kimball. That left me and Mother and the other kids to run the farm with the help of a couple of hired men. By this time, the family had quite an operation going.
I would like to go back a few years to tell about what we used to fill our silos with. Pa bought a steam engine in partnership with four neighbors to use for power to run the silo filler. Wren Guinn was our engineer that first year, and then Bill Matsen for a year, and then he taught me how to run a steam boiler so I could get a special license at 19 years of age. From then on, I ran it until Pa bought a Fordson tractor in 1919.
Now comes the big year. I was drafted into the army on June 24, 1918. I was sent to Camp Grant near Rockford, Ill. Then we moved to Camp Upton on Long Island, N.Y., and from there we left the United States for England on
Sept. 14, 1918, on the large steam ship Olympic. It took us five days to cross. The Olympic was a really big ship, over 900 feet long. We only had a convoy of war ships for one day on both sides of the Atlantic. We were all alone in the middle of the ocean. The ship was so fast, that they were not very much afraid of submarines.
To be continued.
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A favorite author and historian returns. Dean Urdahl is coming to town with an all-new program commemorating this very important year in area history. You won't want to miss it on Tuesday, Feb. 28, and the first event of the year at Kimball's historic City Hall. Bring friends and family, free of charge, refreshments follow. See this column Feb. 23, for even more details.
You can help save Kimball's heritage. Become a member for you or someone else. This is another friendly reminder that 2012 renewals are also needed. Thank you for your support.
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To contribute to this column, or to the permanent society collection (we love it when we get photos), tax deductible membership or donations, please contact the Kimball Area Historical Society at Box 100, Kimball MN 55353, or phone (320) 398-5250, or e-mail
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Building on the Past