Memories of childhood
These are excerpts from notes that Lillian wrote about her life for her grandson, Kenji Kushida, I think to help him with a school assignment. Some of this text appears to be written in response to explicit questions that he was assigned to ask.
When I was a child of school age, I walked two miles to a country school, and home again on a sandy country road. I can remember the joy when my father announced on a cold or snowy morning that he would take us with the bobsled drawn by two horses. Many times we would also have neighbor children with us. Sometimes we shouted with joy when we looked through the schoolhouse window and saw the horsedrawn sled of a father or neighbor waiting to take us home. We were usually a group of children who walked to and from school together. Because I had two sisters and one brother there was usually someone with me.
At school some of the games that we played were; hopscotch and jacks for the girls, and marbles for the boys. Most of the girls had jump ropes of their own. All of the children together played Ante-Over. Steal Sticks was another favorite game.
On winter evenings our father would read Grimm's Fairy Tales to us. There was a Gold, a Red, and a Blue Fairy Tale Book. We had no central heat in our house so to warm our beds we took with us a heated and wrapped flatiron or a heated soapstone. The soapstone had a handle and our mother had made a pocket to contain it.
When summer came there was a school vacation. We children went into the woodlots and meadows to pick the wild blueberries and the blackberries which grew in abundance. We knew of the place where beautiful wildflowers grew. There were yellow Lady Slippers, Pink and White Moccasin Flowers and even the unique Pitcher Plant. We proudly brought home lovely bouquets.
As autumn approached there were wild hazelnuts to be gathered and spread on a low roof for drying.
Each evening at milking time it was a child or children's duty to bring home the cows. Usually a pet dog was anxiously wagging and ready to accompany someone on this exciting adventure. We lived near a lake where the cows could get their drinking water. Maybe the dog would delightfully splash in the water.
Fall was potato harvest time. The rural schools would close for two weeks for the proverbial "Potato Vacation". Its purpose was to give the children time to help their parents to pick up the potatoes that had been dug up by the potato digging machine. It is said that many a large farm barn was built from the profits of potatoes grown and sold in this area.
Children in these schools attended from ages six until sixteen. All were contained in the one-room school with grades from one to eight.
I can remember the rope swing with its board seat that was suspended from a huge limb on a big tree. I am sure that many children in many farmyards had similar swings where many happy hours were spent alone or in groups. A favorite hideaway was the hayloftg in the barn. Here the hay was soft and sweet smelling. Usually somewhere was a nest with a family of kittens which the mother cat thought she had hidden. The kittens made much loved pets.
I think that we had our first Ford car in about 1917 or 1918. Roads in the winter were not suitable in in many parts of the back country. Surfaced roads were unknown. Farmers would stow away their Fords in a shed and put them up on blocks to await the coming of spring. Out came the Cutter and the Bobsled. Big snowplows were yet to come.
When I was a child we had no indoor plumbing. We had to bathe in a washtub by the kitchen stove. We had heated the water on the stove, poured it into the tub and then emptied it out of doors after the bath. We had no electric iron. We heated irons on the same kitchen stove. We read by kerosene lamps. We had no central heat. We had no refrigeration. We kept some food cool in the cellar. Farmers had no electric power tools. Our mothers had not learned to drive the Model T Ford so they could not drive us anywhere. Our fathers were often too tired to do any extra driving.
We had a rural telephone as long ago as I can remember. It was a rural line supported and maintained by neighboring farmers. I think that in our area there were lines soon after 1900.
I can remember a two wheeled buggy with high wheels which might have accommodated four passengers, if two of them were small children. We were six in our family. I can remember my mother infrequently would have driven the buggy with the one horse to the country store. I am sure that my father would have hitched up the horse for her and then unhitched when she returned home.
Oh that country store! Did you know that grocery shoppers did not always push grocery carts. Well they didn't. The grocer or his clerk did all the reaching of the groceries which were on top shelves by using a pole wiht a grabbing clamp on its top. He or she would go to the barrels boxes or bags to measure out the produce which must be weighed. Maybe there was a cash register in later years but at first it was all written in columns and added by hand. We bought flour at my home in one hundred pound sacks. We also kept on hand a one hundred pound sack of sugar, for there was canning to be done in summer and fall.
In the winter there was a cutter drawn by one horse. It had an open top. It ran on runners. It could not hold more than four passenger even if one was a laplander. Thus when the whole family wen, we used the bobsled with a seat which had been made for a lumber wagon. We took along heavy blankets, old fur coats and a fur robe. We took along the heated soapstone to keep our feet warm. We would probably be going only five miles.
What I remember about World War I was making gun cleaners for soldiers' guns out of little squares of cloth. We did this in school and were told they would be sent to the army.
When victory following World War I was declared I can remember a great deal of noise and clamor in our home town followed by parade, rejoicing and celebrations. My recollections are vague. I was about eight years old.
1917-1920 Grades 1-4, District 17, Isanti County
1920-1924 Grades 4-8, Oxlip School, District 69, 1920-2924 (Oxlip school was newly constructed in 1920.)
Isanti High School Dept 1924-1926
Cambridge High School 1926-1928
Cambridge Teacher Training Department 1928-1929
St. Cloud State Teachers College 1931-1932
St. Cloud State, Bachelors Degree, August 1970
Lillian's Employment Experience
Taught District 21, Isanti County 1929-30 and 1930-31
Student at St. Cloud State Teachers' College, 1931-32
She reports that There was a difference in my lifestyle in 1932 during the depression. Teachers wages had dropped quite drastically. There were fewer teaching jobs available. I was unable to find a position in a village school for which I had prepared myself by attending the St. Cloud Teachers' College. I accepted a position in what was called an accredited rural position. My wages had dropped since the teaching year previous to the college year.
Taught Beehive School, District 69, 1932-33, 1933-34, 1934-35
Taught Isanti Village School, District 61 1935-36
Nursemaid in Minnetonka area 1935-36
Taught Beehive School, District 69, 1937-38
Taught Athens School, District 9, 1938-39
Marriage and Family life, 1939-1959
Taught Long Lake District 669, 1959-60, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1963-64, 1965-66, 1966-67
Taught Oxlip School, 1967-68
Taught Isanti Public School, 1968-69, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76
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