The letter below was received by Alfred "Rusty" Rustad while he was in the service during WWII. It was written by a local representative of the Red Cross; the introduction is from an article that featured the letter, which appeared in the Kittson County Enterprise a few years ago. It paints a unique picture of his hometown area around Humboldt, capturing the people and events of that time...
by Rev. Hugh Bell
It's been almost one year since my last "View" so when I received a copy of this enclosed letter I thought it a most opportune time to catch up on correspondence in the Enterprise.
The enclosed letter was sent to Alfred Rustad, Jr. "Rusty" 60 years ago this month. For those of us old enough to remember WWII, we remember a time when just about everyone was in the same boat. It was a time of sacrifice and unbelievable hardship. It was also a time of great family support and great national support. Something that perhaps is lacking in the most recent of our wars including the present day battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. WWII was a time when the whole country pulled together for a common good. Today it seems as tho more energy is put into political rhetoric and profit seeking than into freedom in the Middle East. If we could just stop blaming others for our problems, wouldn't it be a wonderful world. Enough sermon, now to Rusty's letter.
It's still two months from Christmas here, but Old Jack Frost and Old Man Winter have contrived to drop a few hints of the coming season already. We are now having a spell of that famed "October bright blue weather," (which, incidentally, we believe was an exclusive Minnesota invention), with days between blown in by a cold north wind that sweeps down the streets like Old Man Winter himself. Always the old familiar signs of the fall season are at hand. St. Vincent held its annual fair; the ladies of Humboldt are making pies and frying chickens for the fall church supper; one sees "brown wigwams of corn shocks," as one writer aptly puts it; storm windows are beginning to appear;Ikey Diamond is hauling wood and coal, and Rev. Wagner, who is as good a carpenter as you'll find anywhere is making the open air front porch of the parsonage winter tight by installing glass windows.
Duck hunting season is in full swing; the only thing that stumps the hunters is, "Where are the ducks?"
A goodly number has been reported seen way out east in the swamps, but northeast of town where Johnny Easter and Bill Sylvester sat waiting for the fowl the other day, all they spotted was a pelican, cavorting among the decoys, having the time of his life. Several deer spent the summer in the brush near Levi Diamond's farm. They were so tame they pastured with the cattle and ate up most of "Tootsie's" garden. One morning on his way to work, Cliff's Ford had a race with a doe and her fawn near Carl Gatheridge's farm, right on the highway. Who won, Cliff?
Harvest has been awfully late this year, thanks to the heavy rains right smack in the middle of the threshing season. In fact, some farmers are still combining their wheat or flax, but the weather is finally getting too cold even for the mosquitoes.
Every year it changes, of course, even in Humboldt. Some of the population has moved to that great metropolis, Hallock - namely, "Bub" and Mrs. Reese, the Henry Gatheridges and Carl Wieses, and oh yes, Ben Matthews and his "little woman." Mrs. Hilda Easter moved this fall to St. Vincent, as did the Ted Meyer family. Ben and his "little ile station" had become almost a permanent fixture in town, or so we thought; but Ben had an auction sale this summer at which he offered for sale sundry items including beds, tables, chairs, dishes, stoves and various other items too numerous (and too ancient) to mention. R.L. Kempf bought a highchair. Nope, no more boys -- this time it's for the grandchildren! (Overheard at the sale, "What are you going to do with all that junk, Roy?") Meanwhile, Wilmer Maxwell has taken over the filling station. Don Brown joins the rank of armed forces Oct. 15, while wife Marian and kiddies sojourn at her home in Embarrass for the duration. Jim Bell received his "Greetings" this month too. Fidelis Tri Wolters' house looks poised ready to take flight at any moment. Its been up on stilts for some time now, ready to be moved to Orleans.
Even though the population seems to have been decreased by the above exodus, such is really not the case. the stork brought several new arrivals to these homes during the past year: to Walter Loers and the Billy Gatheridges, boys, and to Wilbert Hemmes' and the Bob Schantees, girls. The first girl in the Kempf family in half a century was born at Eau Claire to Sgt. and Mrs. Emral. The Leslie Reeses have a baby Louise on the West coast. Lt. and Mrs. Warren Matthew also have a new girl. Kalvin Sylvester, honorably discharged from the army, is the daddy of a 10 pound baby boy. Boy!
George Finneys have moved into Vida Knowlton's house, swelling the population by five. Eldon Turners, who now have the town milk route, have moved into the old Balderston cafe. Joe Diamond and his wife came back from San Diego this summer. Mrs. Diamond is home again after being very ill at the hospital for several months. And here's proof that the population must have picked up! Humboldt has three grade teachers again this year, Miss Sanner, Miss Swanson, and Miss Gunnarson, all from the Lake Bronson-Kennedy district. They board and room at Virgil Bockwitz'.
Now for news of the young fry. Fourteen kids are transported to Hallock to high school by Garfield Easter in the big yellow bus. Green frosh are George and Donald Easter, Billy Easton, and Lucille Diamond. By the way, Mr. Tri is teaching math in Hallock this year, so the Humboldt kids feel right at home in that class. Kay Miller and Ruth Matthew are cadet nurses now, and expect to be placed in army base hospitals in December. Sarah Baldwin enrolls as a cadet nurse this month. Margaret James is at St. Cloud T.C., Henrietta Tri at Moorhead training to be a teacher. Doris Reese is employed at the Hallock AAA office. Alyce Easter is a medical technician at Litchfield Hospital (she sticks needles into her victims!); Dennis Matthews plans to be a telegraph operator, and will train in Grand Forks. Jane Matthew Hayes is teaching in Park Rapids; Margaret Knowlton Fuhraman is in Miami with husband Lt. Bill; Gwen Easter Vowles, back from California, is here at home while Ens. Vowles trains in amphib. on the West coast. Dorothy Sylvester is working in Washington state;Anna Marie Whalen (Merck) was employed in the Noyes depot till very recently, and is now in Grand Forks. Einar Rustad came back from his defense job in Washington to help his dad with the harvest.
At the present time Humboldt is without a cafe and cream station. Mr. Patchin passed away this summer, and Mrs. Patchin moves out this week. We sure miss a good Coke n'coffee place - treats from the "old fleabit"1 Harry Clow, have noticeably fallen off. He's still the best newspaper Humboldt ever had, though. Mrs. Gill is keeping house up there now.
After holding church services in the church hall for several Sundays, the redecoration in the church was finished and the furniture moved back in by Oct. 1. Both the interior and exterior look mighty fresh and clean since Bill Sylvester wielded his brush. And you should have seen the women struggling with the sander as they cleaned and scraped the floor till they lost count of the sandpaper they cut for the darn machine. The shiny floor credits their efforts, though.
Jack Bell was a war casualty of this past year. He was killed when his plane was shot down in the South pacific.
Swish! Bang-bang! Put-put-put put! x@**·x !blankety-blank--"Hey Charlie, get off and give this crate a push, will ya?" Don't get excited-it's only Bobby Miller on his new reconditioned (1930 vintage) motorcycle. The vibration experienced by the rider when the things speeds up to 20 m.p.h. must be terrific.
Surprise marriage of the year! Ruth McEwen hopped a bus to Oklahoma and married Sgt. Lloyd Moose of Donaldson. She is back at her job in the Treasurer's office at Hallock, having survived such quips as, "So you got your moose out of season?" and "Sure you had a hunting license?" Vera Gatheridge was married at Hallock to Donald Laude, and Luverne Stewart and Warren Swan tied the nuptial knot on the East coast this summer. Marine Sgt. Robert Clow, who recently spent his furlough here, married a little southern gal from deep down in Carolina.
Latest aviation news! Paul and Nadine Torgeson flew in from Minot in their private Piper Cub plane 'tougher day. Humboldt will soon have to build an airport to take care of present and past-war aviation!
This 'n that department: A move to provide an adequate fire-fighting unit for St. Vincent, Clow, and Hill townships has been made, and some equipment purchased. Fire trucks aren't available now, however. Rev. Engelbretson is still on the "mending list" after her long illness. She is slowly but surely gaining complete use of her left arm again.
John Fink, recently depot agent here, moved to Manvil, (did you know they had adopted a little boy), and Warren Isley took over his job here. While Warren divides his time between the Humboldt and Noyes depots, wife Velma takes over depot duties here. Incidentally, the depot was recently completely redecorated, and the old iron pot-bellied stove that used to glow with a red-hot heat on those stormy winter nights is no more. A modern heater has replaced it...Mrs. Hare fell while in Libby, Mont., and broke her hip. She is at home again now. Somewhat improved...Grandma Matthew has the best kept yard in town. Her summer flowers were numerous and beautiful, and this week she is having her comfortable home repainted...In Shinnston, W. Va., Art and Esther Sylvester had a harrowing experience when a tornado struck within three blocks of them this summer. They assisted with the rescue work and clearing up the debris. Don Griffen, who was in an army camp near there at the time, had the pleasure of seeing his sergeant being disrespectfully picked up off his feet and set down elsewhere...Since bears are noted for their strong affinity for honey, Prof Tri's bees have come in for some meddling. A bear hunting expedition in the dark of the night composed of Don Brown, Quintin, "Jelly" Smith, Art Borneman, Tom MoIley, and game warden Alfred Blid promised to be a success until Art suddenly gave out with a loud sneeze. That, along with the unquotable imprecations that followed, served to scare the bear away for that night. P.S. How Art got away without a few rifle shots in him we'll never know. To quote D.B. "If ever I wanted to shoot anybody...!" Could the presence of the game warden have saved him?!
In the absence of a Humboldt Chronicle, we hope this has helped you catch up on the year's goings on in the old home town. We are hoping that wherever you are, you will have your share of the usual Christmas festivities and that all your mail will catch up with you. We are hoping also, that the next Christmas will be happier for all, due partly to what you have done and the sacrifices you have made. We at home are following all the various movements and you in particular - we miss you everyone.
When you hear the Gospel story once again and think of that Inn where the Son of God could have been born, but it was too busy, too crowded remember that people today can be like that Inn. People can be busy with life, things can clutter up every minute and the best of all can be crowded out. We'd like you to keep your head up, your eye clear and make room in your heart for the highest and the best -- Jesus the Son of God.
Local Red Cross Chapter
Alfred "Rusty" Rustad, Jr. returned to Humboldt after the war and married Patricia Carrigan. He farmed for awhile, hauled water and later became postmaster in Humboldt. Rusty died in 1986.
A prayer could be that in another 60 years we could find peace and good will toward all peoples.1 - Fleabit is British slang for a small, irritating person...