Tricounty News

Meet your Neighbors - Ed and Alma Wylie

(Reprinted from the Thursday, June 23, issue of the Tri-County News.) "So long as we love, we serve. So long as we are loved by others, I would almost say we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend." (R.L. Stevenson) Ed Wylie and Alma Schempf had loved and served all their lives. Then Ed lost Elsie and Alma lost Fred. They both questioned their usefulness and purpose when suddenly alone. Then one day, Ed and Alma danced together at a Senior Citizens' dance ... and that was the beginning of new meaning, new indispensability, and new lives together. They were married April 1976. Ed was 83 and Alma 79. (And the moral of this story is: It's never too late for love ... or like that.) When I saw ed Wylie downtown the other night, all slicked up in a light tan suit and polished face, he did not seem at all like the man who was once a poverty-stricken boy who hunted ginseng and trapped muskrats and rabbits, which he could sell to Ole Knaus for 10 cents. It was hard for me to put him back in time to a setting so unlike modern day Main Street Kimball. I could hard-picture Ed playing Indians through the woods (which his father had cleared for a mile to reach their home) among the coyotes which ran across the road. "We were poor folks, all right, but no happier a family could you find," said ed as he reminisced over his "darned tough life." The first time he worked out (for his sister), he was 11 years old and for 50 cents a week, he took care of the team, milked a cow and hoed the garden. By the age of 14, Ed figures he was one of the best corn huskers around. His brother ran the thresher and for 2 cents a shock for cutting and husking, the boys made $2 a day. Ed was wise, however, and saved his money to buy 20 acres of land. Then at 16, Ed hired out as a farm hand, with a starting salary of $26 a month. After several years, he went to work in North Dakota, where the pay was better and he was making $48 by the time he  returned home a year or so later. Ed decided to trade his 20 acres for a 40 and start farming. In 1915, he married Elsie Shultz and they rented an additional 40 acres from her father. that winter, they lived in a log house and were "so cold, we darn near froze to death." So they sold that 40 and bought an 80, then sold that and bought 160 acres. Meanwhile, Gladys, Hazel, Edward, Harold, Dorothy and Wilbert were born. (And I must admit that that progression of events was almost as difficult for me to keep up with as all the land acquisitions.) Hard times were coming again in the 1930s, but Ed could still remember the difficult periods of his own childhood. Despite the hardships, people stuck together. There might not have been money, but "the women could always put together a cake or sandwich" and take the family in the sled to a neighbor's for fellowship. And, speaking of sandwiches, those in the dinner pails that were taken to school often froze solid and had to be thawed out by the stove before they could be eaten. But the real treat came not out of the dinner pail, but off the milk bucket, for when the kids returned from school, they received a piece of bread with sugar and cream skimmed off the top of the bucket. In the 1930s, oats were 9 cents, wheat 27 cents and hogs $2.60. The banks went broke, the drought spared nothing (but box elder bugs and grasshoppers) and then hail took the rest. Then Elsie got sick and Ed lost everything. From the time the family left their 160-acre farm, they rented farms first in Watkins, then south of Kimball, northeast of Fair Haven and  finally on the Meeker County line. Sixteen years ago, the Wylie children finally forced their parents to move into town. I suppose it must be terribly difficult for a farmer to trade the joy of driving a tractor in wide open spaces for pushing a lawn mower over a small patch of green. However, the Wylies thrived in town. It was very painful for Ed to lose Elsie in 1975, for the two had been devoted to each other from childhood. Ed admits that his lifge became meaningless. At one point, he almost bled to death from  ulcers and had to spend three weeks in the hospital. But Alma Possin ("They run short of names when they thought of that one," remarked Ed) Schempf came along to befriend an old friend (the Schempfs and the Wylies had been close friends for years). I figure Alma's about as neat (in the popular jargon meaning just really super OK) a woman as Ed is a man. Except that it is a little more difficult to discover in Alma because she's too humble. Her father was a mason who worked with field stones. Because her parents came from Germany, they taught their 10 children German and Alma remembers the difficulty she had when she started school at six and could not speak any English. After working out in the summers (for $2 a month, plus room and board) and for 3 1/2 years at the telephone company, Alma  decided to marry fred Schempf, a blacksmith. He had shops in Fair Haven and then in Kimball (where the present post office is and finally where some office is and then next to the Red Owl). Fred passed away in 1968. Alma keeps herself busy (when she's not dancing ... like every Tuesday night) crochetting or quilting or bowling or playing cards or sewing her own clothes or doing church work. "We've had a wonderful 14 months," said Ed as he took a cup of tea from his newlywed, who was bustling off to get him some  sugar, which he protested as too much trouble but she replied that it really wasn't ...  What more can one add to such happiness ad indispensability! ********** Thanks to former good neighbors like the Wylies for their  interview by Robin Hasslen some 31 years ago. Do you have a story to share with the rest of us? ********** Many special celebrations this year include our great state of Minnesota's 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) and more. ********** Coming soon: Mark your calendar for our first meeting, Saturday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. in Kimball's historic city hall. Featured program speakers include historians Dan Becker and Morgan Woodward, who are full of rare but fresh histories of the Kimball area. Why not join us? ********** Coming soon after: Mark your calendar again for the 2008 Kimball Community and Business  Expo at Kimball Area High school Saturday, March 29. Watch this newspaper for further details. ********** Did you notice the back page membership application in Tri-County News last week (Jan. 24)? It's membership renewal and new membership time. Your attention to this is much appreciated. Any more information for The Kimball Area Historical Society may be addressed to: Box 100, Kimball, Minn. 55353, or call us at (320) 398-5743, (320) 398-5250 or (800) 252-2521 if out of the area. ********** "Changing the World, One Story at a Time.