Fortunately the paper published some of Patterson's remarks in summary. He observed that this graduating class would experience something different from those before it: unemployment. The great depression was upon the land, and it must have been a troubling time. He also said something that seemed very remarkable to me: a warning that 70% of the federal budget was being spent on the military! And I thought that was a recent problem. Come to think of it, Patterson was a lot like President Eisenhower in that attitude and in other ways.
Dr. Patterson was in my memory a kindly old gentleman with a particular interest in theology. I found a copy of his book, The Philosophy of the Old Testament, some years ago. Sadly, his failing eyesight or possibly other ailments caused him to leave his post that same year, and I was left something of an "orphan" graduate student. There just were no more professors like him, a throwback to the time when philosophy and theology were more friendly toward each other.
But in thinking about it further, Dr. Patterson was not the first picture in the papers of someone I personally knew. That distinction, as best I can recall, would go to Enoch Ekstrand, whose picture accompanied his run for some political office or other. That, too, was of a younger man than the Enoch most of us recall.
Like most discoveries, this one opens yet another question. Why was Dr. Patterson selected to address the commencement that year? Did he have some Polk county connection? It would be most interesting to know.
Byleen's Swedish Class Revisited
Earl and Adele inspired many things, including this column which follows loosely the example set by his newspaper Swedish lessons. That tape may have been the first a series of home lessons given free to volunteer students. It dealt with the Swedish alphabet, the pronounciation of certain sounds which are strange to English speakers, and listening to a recording of words spoken in Swedish. Cassette recorders were not high fidelity in those days, and finding one to play it on took us to the new library, where one can still be checked out. Fortunately Earl spoke very slowly and clearly so it is not at all hard to understand.
With the help of an adapter from Ed's Repair in York, we were able to make a digital copy of that cassette on computer, and copy that to compact disc. Studying Swedish at North Park College and also with Earl made me appreciate what it must have been like to be bi-lingual, and what many still experience today as the challenge of knowing two languages. Earl would have been amazed and delighted to know that we can now listen to Swedish sermons every Sunday via the internet.
There is a sidebar to the story of the Byleen house. Looking through county records it has recently been revealed that this house was once occupied by Eric Carlsons; Eric being a cousin of grandpa Greenwall's first wife, Elisabeth and a partner in the Forslund-Carlson grocery store. While sitting at the Byleens I had no idea that the same house had hosted many family gatherings back in the thirties!
And, it was something of a surprise to hear my own voice on the tape asking questions of Earl at the conclusion of the lesson. Lorraine probably never dreamed that her tape would be an artifact worthy of an archive, but preserving as it does the voice of Earl Byleen and his students for those of us who survive him makes it more than priceless. There is a CD copy of the tape at the old library.
Discovering Family Places
Covenant home is very special to our family because of the eighteen years we spent there. So is the Morrill estate because that is where grandpa lived and worked, and where he was married to Elisabeth Carlson in 1901. Now what we are learning from the old newspapers lovingly examined in our basement, is that grandpa had many inlaws in that Carlson clan, and even where some of them lived.
During our first stay in Stromsburg we had no idea where Elisabeth's sister Emma Forslund lived. She actually lived at several locations; the Morrill estate, at Polk for a time while Eric managed the grain elevator there, at the Engstrom farm where they cared for that aged couple, and finally in the square house at 10th street and the highway. The Forslunds would be "blown away" if they could return and see the big Free church across the street from them. It wasn't there in their day.
Grandpa's nieces, Lillie and Sigrid married local farmers and also lived nearby. Lillie married Hartwig Floodman and they farmed west of town. Sigrid married Delbert Query and their farm was just northeast of Benedict. With some help from the York County Historical Society I now have a picture of a very old farmhouse at just that location, modernized and in very good shape. That is a special place for sure.
Elisabeth and Emma's father lived to be 96 years old, the oldest man in Stromsburg according to the papers, and he also had nephews and nieces joining the clan. Though Forslunds had retired from their grocery business some years earlier, when Eric Carlson, one of those nephews, came from Sweden they started up again in partnership with him...Forslund and Carlson Grocery in the old Lime Kiln building. Thanks to the old newspapers and some help from the Polk County Assessors office, we know where Eric and his wife lived, too. It was in the house we knew as Earl and Adele Byleen's...at that time owned by H. Christiansen next door.
There were many family gatherings celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, holidays and much more among the Carlson clan members, duly reported in the social news of the weekly papers. Just to know where these things happened makes for some new "special places."
Model T Fords
But, at the risk of poking fun at the venerable Model T as so many have done, we will say that grandpa could not drive a car...only a Ford. That would really not be such an insult, because I will admit though having driven since age 14 and one/half (on a school permit for farm children, you know) I would not try to drive a Model T without a knowledgable teacher at my side and not on a public street for safety's sake.
I even have a candidate in mind; my friend Rev. Russ Ohara. I will admit to following Russ around town as he exercises his 1926 Model T coupe just for the fun of seeing the sight and to get a picture of it. Recently he showed me the interior, and there are some controls in there that would baffle the brightest graduate of today's driver education classes.
For instance, the lever on the left side of the steering wheel does not operate turn signals (that's what you have arms for) nor the windshield wipers (are you kidding?). It is to "retard the spark" for easier starting. That is a particularly important step when cranking by hand, since an advanced spark is more apt to cause the crank to "kick back," which can and did regularly break arms. Great-grandpa Rodine had this happen when cranking a Whippet. Yes, the papers did report such things.
This 1926 Model T was really up-to-date because it had battery and starter. Surrounding the ignition key is a switch which will select two positions: battery or magneto. Put it in the "battery" position when pressing the starter pedal under your heel, and when the Ford four is running, switch over to "magneto." No battery needed. Was it the battery companies that bought out all the magnetos and caused them to be forever forgotten? Like the oil companies did with the 100 miles per gallon carbureters?
And don't be deceived by the three pedals on the floor. They don't for the most part do anything like the driver's ed. teacher said; even if "standard transmission" driving was part of the course, which it probably wasn't. These pedals run the transmission, which was not like any other transmission before or since. This is where I will need further instruction before even explaining them.
What about the accelerator? Well, that's back up on the steering column, over where you expect the transmission controls (gear shift) to be. You could "set it and forget it," sort of like cruise control. Sound confusing? Maybe now you could understand why in emergencies, many of grandpa's generation just yelled out "whoa!" and hoped for the best.
A Flag to Remember
The book details the horrific experiences of the captives, who considered themselves fortunate to survive the forty-two month ordeal but tempered by the knowledge of so many who did not. There is no doubt that these people carried scars of many kinds for life. There is also no doubt that the rest of us can not imagine what they went through.
When news of the war's end reached their camp, several of the other nationalities brought out hidden flags...this is the account of what the Americans did.
"In spite of the excitement of the moment, we felt a sense of true disappointment as the British, Australian and Dutch flags were raised——no one had an American flag. Feeling the urgent need for one, we immediately started collecting material for making our own banner. The Dutch soldiers had worn green straw hats with bright red linings so we collected some of those and salvaged the linings. I still had a single piece of white tenting large enough for a flag and I had a piece of keel which was just the right shade of blue for the field. We carefully marked off the stars in the field and colored around them with the blue keel leaving the stars white. Since I still had a needle and some white thread which had been unraveled from the canvas I had borrowed in Singapore, I helped to sew the red and white stripes together.
We are fortunate to have this well-written record from the time when the word "patriotism" really meant something. It will make that flag flying at the end of my block a bit more important to me.
Chicago and Northwestern Railroad
That was the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad which ran all the way from Hastings to the Platte River at Linwood and who knows where beyond (maybe Mr. Know-it-all knows). The C & NW, for short, was the railroad whose steam whistles could be heard faintly from my childhood home, and very loudly from grandma's place which was a half block away from the tracks in town. Though very little evidence remains in York, it is at the place where highway 81 divides into one-way streets at their south end where the rail line ran east and west.
The same week this article appeared, I learned that an acquaintance and his two brothers had made an epic railfan trip this summer following the abandoned C & NW route not only through York, but all the way from Hastings to Linwood! The results of this adventure was a substantial stack of photos documenting such things as surviving depots, cuts and fills along the right-of-way.
Of the views taken, the most impressive to me were stone arches and tunnels probably constructed by old world stone masons to a standard not seen since their day. These were to allow passage of water through some of the larger fills which today look like dams. One might wonder what archaeologists of a far future generation will think of these artifacts semi-buried in Nebraska fields. Were they evidence of a lost civilization? Of aliens?
This summer we joined our Denver relatives on a rail adventure of our own, riding the new Denver light rail commuter line from near their home in Lakewood down to the restored Union Station and mall downtown. On the rails at Union Station we saw the Amtrak version of the Zephyr pull out for Chicago. The steel rails that transformed America can still be found, serving present needs as well as dreamers' nostalgia.
Another Famous Person from Stromsburg
She described the career of a man who decades earlier had been a young apprentice carpenter in Stromsburg. He had big ideas evidently, for he went back to Illinois and enrolled as a student of architecture in a university there. Finishing this course, he joined an architectural firm in Lincoln with a man named Leech.
There he developed a design for store fronts which could be stamped out of sheet metal rather than stone work or masonry previously used to provide an ornate facade for businesses. The process was so successful that our Stromsburg carpenter lad started his own plant for the manufacture, sale and distribution of these metal store fronts in Niles, Michigan. It was called Kawneer Company.
Chattie was fascinated by this story; Kawneer had already made him a millionaire by 1932 but she would be even more surprized to visit the Kawneer website today. Here is part of what they have to say:
"Kawneer North America is the leading manufacturer of architectural aluminum building products and systems for the commercial construction industry...
There is another twist to the story; here is what Chattie reveals as the "punch line" of "Do You Know?":
"Mr. Plym" (our carpenter lad) "is a brother of Mrs. C.A. Falk and an uncle of John Falk of this city. During his stay in Stromsburg he resided at the Falk home."
(A postscript: look at the label at the bottom of Cornerstone Bank's entry doors. Prepare to be surprized.)
Guy Green: More Than Baseball
When he graduated from Stromsburg he was not quite fourteen years old, and was the valedictorian. He then went to Doane College and became its youngest graduate as of 1932. His interests ranged from real estate, moving pictures and taking a degree in law, to a more enduring career in journalism. He was associate editor and columnist for the Hereford Journal, but that is not all.
"One hot Sunday morning in Kansas City," the article goes on, "...He made his first Sunday school talk, speaking for ten minutes on the book of Esther." So great was his impact that this Presbyterian men's group soon went from forty to six hundred members and Guy Green was in great demand as a religious speaker. "In Sherman, Texas, he taught a men's class numbering 700. In Davenport, Iowa, the attendance was 450. In Muskogee, Okla., his Bible class numbered 500. At Louisville, Miss., he had 475..."
So the many-talented Green went from journalism to full-time religious work. "He cultivated his memory until he can quote from the Bible, it is said, for ten hours without making a single error, and can recite the whole book of Genesis... (He) Does not use jumping jack methods..." the article observes, in reference to such antics on the part of Billy Sunday and others. He "is another Stromsburg graduate of the first graduating class who has given his best in the callings he has entered into." concludes the article.
Pretty amazing, wouldn't you say? Or maybe, with Ripley, "Believe it or Not."