Tricounty News

Echoes down a half-century, Part 1

I have just celebrated a birthday, the big six-oh. It is so much younger than it used to be! Why, I remember when 40 was OLD, and now it is very young indeed, hardly dry behind the ears. My children don't know that yet, but they will learn. They think I'm an historic relic; perhaps they are correct. With 60 years behind me, I was struck recently with the fact that I have sharp recollections of over a half century ago, including my tenth year. I don't confuse memories of that year-actually 15 months--with experiences on either side of it. This I know for certain because my memories of 1958-59 are memories of Kimball, while all other childhood memories are recollections of Africa. In 1953, shortly before my fifth birthday, my father, in his commitment to missions work, led our family to Africa, a world away from the Minnesota Prairie. Except for those 15 months, I lived in Africa from that time until I returned to attend college in 1965. It was in May 1958, as Minnesota began its centennial celebration, having finished our first missionary term, the Stanleys disembarked the S.S. Stella Lykes in Galveston, Texas and headed toward Kimball. I carried no distinct pre-Africa memories of Kimball, this place our family always called "home." Home was where Grandma Eaton lived on the family farm run by son, Merton. Across the road to Fair Haven lived "Stretch" and Marge Greeley and Mary, JoEllen, and Bobby. Merton drove the new Rambler down to Galveston to meet us, breaking a promise he had made to himself never to return to Texas, where he had spent a very short and unhappy army career, much of it in the military hospital. Home was where both of my parents grew up and attended church and school, and where they were married. Grandpa Lafe Stanley and his second wife, Mamie, lived just above Lake Carnelian, across from the widow Longwell and the Kueseskes. But Stanley roots ran much deeper in the Kimball area than those two generations. Coincidentally, my great-grandfather, Roger, was not quite five years old when his father led the family from the Ohio-Pennsylvania border to their new home on the virgin prairie just as Minnesota was becoming a state. And Joseph and Rebecca Eaton arrived from New Hampshire at the same time. But I have written much on those early years already. So. back to the '50s, and the gangplank of the Stella Lykes. Three adults and five children, aged 2 to 13, crushed into the blue '58 Rambler station wagon after stowing two footlockers and a mismatch of odd suitcases into a small U-Haul trailer, to begin the 1500-mile trip to Kimball. Gas purchases along the way provided most of a set of those glasses with pheasants on them, given as premiums for fill-ups. When we stopped overnight at a small motel, we kids begged dad for an unfamiliar coin to feed the in-room TV for an hour. South Africa had no television, so it was a new experience as we crowded around the small almost-oval black and white screen mounted in a heavy wood cabinet. That screen would be dwarfed today by my wall-mounted HD LCD screen, but we didn't mind squeezing together, happy to see this exciting, hi-tech entertainment. Next morning, breakfast also brought something brand new-Sugar Pops, in a one-serving box, lined with aluminum foil so that milk could be poured right in, ready to eat. We moved into a little grey house (hardly recognizable today with its addition on the street side) east of highway 55. Across the street was the cornfield of the Hinz farm. The grey house with its central furnace and large steel floor grill that burned bare feet trying to move from any room to another, would be home base for my memory-filled Kimball year. From those nostalgic cards that look back at significant facts of any given year, we learn that a new home cost $12,400--presumably less for the little grey house--in 1959, and the average income was just a bit over $5,000-less than $100 a week. Mailing a letter cost 4 cents, and gasoline set the driver back two bits a gallon. But these were not the things that interested a 10-year-old. I suppose I was probably taught that "Ike" was in the White House; but I do distinctly remember watching the news as both Alaska and Hawaii joined the union, requiring a new fifty-star flag that has been our national banner ever since. The Dodgers won the World Series about the time we left again for Africa, but the sport confused me; I had never even seen it played. Despite the round ball, it wasn't like cricket at all. Nevertheless, with classmates I walked downtown to the little Red Owl store to buy bubble gum, mostly for the baseball cards included with each pack, though I didn't even recognize the names of the players. Join me for a few weeks and listen for the echoes down a half century as I ponder my recollections of a year in Kimball. * * * * * Did you know, this is our 233rd "History Matters" column? And the beginning of a "once-in-a-lifetime" year. The Kimball Area Historical Society celebrated its eighth anniversary this past October. Thank you for your generous membership support, new and renewals, City Hall restoration/preservation, souvenir purchases, meeting attendance, and friendship. We look forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship as we work to preserve Kimball's heritage. Thanks to you, many successes for Kimball's preservation have occurred since 2000. And as we enter a new day and year for historic recognition, we never imagined this Society could be where we are in eight short years. It's exciting and challenging at the same time. Coming soon: Watch this column in the Tri-County News, as the next one gives you the scoop on a fantastic February meeting and program, March events and more. For new and renewed membership, perhaps your contribution for this column, your own family history research, souvenirs, donations for City Hall restoration project, photo and story donations for our growing classic collection, please contact the Kimball Area Historical Society at Box 100, Kimball MN 55353, or phone (320) 398-5743 or 398-5250. We look forward to hearing from you. * * * * * "Not forgetting the Faith of our Fathers"