Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hallock Expatriate's Blog

"My family grew up on a farm between Orleans and Humboldt, and they moved to Lancaster in the 1950's and then to Hallock in the early 1960's..."
I recently discovered Mike Haubrich's blog quite by accident when doing general searches for this blog. I regularly do searches on keywords to locate information about our county, towns, and the general region that would be of interest to those from our area. You might be surprised how many people visit the website here, from all over the country and many from other parts of the world. Some are looking for general history that happened in our area, others are just interested in the site because it's a little window into a small part of our world. Others are expatriates like Mike, who grew up here but moved away. Like me, Mike moved away and moved around all over. Eventually, he - like me - moved back to the region. We're still not 'back home', but we are back close enough to have perspective and appreciation of our respective backgrounds.

The Northern Lights:
Sure, Hallock gets very cold in the winter. Brutally cold, as I have written in prior entries. But there are treasures in the north that people to the south don't get to experience. Real rhubarb pie, stands of white poplar and quaking aspen, traces of the summer sunset in the northern sky lasting until 11:30 at night, seeing the entire Big Dipper and best of all, basking in the glow of the Northern Lights.
Death of a Friend and Fellow Hallockite:
Tim Hanson died over the weekend. I only knew him as a friend of my sister. People had suspected but weren't really sure about his sexuality as he was growing up. Turns out he was gay. I partied with him a couple of times after my sister moved to St. Paul. I had gotten out of touch with most of my age-group peers after I moved away from Minnesota in 1983, and when I moved back to Minnesota in 1993 I visited more frequently. When my sister moved to St. Paul I got to know some of the people that had been her friends when she was in school here.

Tim was proud to have been from Hallock. We talked about our background and some of the things we shared by growing up there. It was then that I learned that he had a partner of 15 years. A male partner. Tim was one of the good guys. His life's chosen work was in helping the developmentally disabled, until he died in a car accident on March 17th. His car hit a telephone pole. Phil survived.
Starting With Hallock:
We need to clear up one thing, right now. The weather people in the Twin Cities report on the temperature in "Hal-eck" and I cringe. I would bet that most people think they are talking about Alexandria, which is nowhwere near the top left corner of Minnesota. Hallock is the county seat of the farthest northwest county in Minnesota. Our county borders both Manitoba and North Dakota, and is not in Lake Country.

The name "Hallock" is pronounced differently by the natives than by anyone else. We call it "HAL-lock" and everyone else calls it "Halleck." We stretch the first syllable and make sure that the second is pronounced, while the others try to squeeze two syllables into one. They want to make the name as short as the town is small. We want to remind people that even though the town has a population around twelve hundred, it is the biggest town in Kittson County and worthy of a full two syllables.
Midnight, Midnight Hope to See the Ghost Tonight
Our house on Forest Street was big and old. It had a front porch, which we only used for play. We had a big yard, separated into a north section and a south section by the house. The east side of the yard provided plenty of room for play as well. We took advantage of it.
Minimum Wage in the 1970's
Hallock's furniture store sat in two buildings on Second Street, across from the jewelry and drug stores. Gary Melin took over when his dad, Wilbur was too ill to carry on. Gary was only in his twenties when he took over management, but the people of Hallock liked working with him and trusted him to sell the best quality home furnishings at a reasonable price, considering the size of the town. Melin's carried appliances, paint, carpeting, TVs and of course furniture.

He hired me when I was sixteen to complement his staff of four; his mother Ella, Jan Carlson, me and himself. He paid me the grand sum of $1.95 per hour, which was minimum wage at the time. I didn't negotiate for a higher wage, considering that this was not bad money at the time and I had just completed a temporary job working the harvest for a local farmer at $1.50 an hour and thought I was rolling in tall clover.