Sunday, March 04, 2012

Interview: Beth Lapp

Elizabeth Lapp in 1948
[Courtesy:  Digital Archive, UMC

Thanks to Kristine Baldwin Ohmann, who facilitated our get together, I interviewed one of the oldest living natives (and a resident) of St. Vincent last weekend.

Elzabeth Lapp, better known as Beth, was raised in St. Vincent.  Her parents, Richard (Dick) and Lillian Lapp, met in 1926 when her mother came to town to teach at the school. Dick's parents were early settlers of St. Vincent, arriving in 1879 from Canada.

I share with you here the interview in its entirety, as it happened.  As you will read, there are a lot of clues for further stories, which I intend to explore in future posts...

1. Her earliest memory is of getting ill and vomiting on her workbook at school. In those days, you only got one workbook to use for your schoolwork, so she was mortified. She was sitting near chalkboard at the time. Her teacher was Miss Penovich.

2. Some of her other teachers were: Elaine Bergh, Gunda Hanson, Mrs. Isley, and Mrs. Monte(gue) Clinton.

3. The year she had Mrs. Clinton, “we didn’t learn anything”. Math and Science were "sacrificed for art". All she remembers is Mrs. Clinton having the class place chairs facing west and looking out towards Christ Church and drawing what they saw…

4. When it came time to go to high school, students during her time had three choices: Hallock, Pembina, or Crookston. Hallock and Pembina were public school (free) while Crookston was a boarding school and charged tuition. This was during the 1940’s and into the 1950’s.

Northwest School of Agriculture campus, in Crookston, MN
[Photo Courtesy Digital Archive, UMC]
5. Crookston was called the ‘Ag School’. It's actual name was the Northwest School of Agriculture.  Several area natives attended it, including Beth and her siblings.

Leo Ash from St. Vincent
6. Ag School kids at the beginning of the school year (which ran from October to April to avoid planting and harvest) were picked up at this end at Noyes, and stopped at several towns between Noyes and Crookston. Kids only came home for certain school breaks like Christmas, otherwise living on campus during the school year.

Rodney Webster,
from St. Vincent


7. Some of the area students that attended Crookston were: Rodney and Morris Webster, Rusty Rustad, the Younggrens, the Lapps, Rodney McGovern, and William and Leo Ash.

The church shows up on this 1912
map just where Beth said it was...



8. There was a Methodist church in St. Vincent at one point. Beth remembers it just being called the St. Vincent Methodist Church. She said it was in the same block as the Lofberg house, on the northwest corner, across from the school. It has stained glass windows, pews, a pulpit, etc. She attended it in the 1930’s, and she remembers it closing in 1948. They had two ministers when she attended, both women – Pastor Clara Wagner and Pastor Alice Engelbretson.  It had a long partnership with the Humboldt Methodist Church.  When it closed, the building was sold to a Cameron. Members back then were: the Noltes, Art Flankey, the Lapps, Spike Monroe, Ione DeFrance, Cliff Clow, Albert Clow, Roy Clow, Warren Clow, and the Skjolds family.

'TH' stands for town hall on the 1959 map of St. Vincent.  The
name of it was Reid Hall.  It was west of the Friebohle Garage.

The highway in front is St. Vincent's main street - Pacific, or T.H. 171.

9. The town once had a town hall. It was called Reid Hall, and it was on main street up by where the jail is, in front of it, just west of the Friebohle Garage. She said that’s where the school basketball teams played basketball. Movies were also shown there, as well as school programs and plays on the hall’s stage.

10. The general store on main street was originally built by Richard Lapp, Beth’s father. After he ran it, the Ahles family ran it, then the Strangers, and finally George Sylvester. NOTE: the Green Store - ran by a Mr. Green - another general store, was located in another part of town.  I had erroneously thought it was the same store, but it was not!
Store Trivia: During the depression when Mr. Lapp was
running the store, it was common to have store credit
accounts. Somehow one customer ran up a bill of over
$3,000 which was a LOT of money then. Later, when they
had to close the store, Beth remembers him telling this
customer once that if it hadn’t been for him, he might
have been able to stay in business!
11. Speaking of the Green Store, when Mr. Green quit running that store, the building was torn down and the lumber re-used to build the Valley Community Church on the block by my grandmother’s house, facing the main street. It eventually became the St. Vincent Evangelical Free Church. When the St. Vincent EFC moved to Pembina, the building was moved to Hallock.

12. A former native of St. Vincent, Mark Parenteau, became an artist. One of his pieces of art (it contained in the image, among others things, a cow…) was first owned by Verlie Cameron Wilwant, and is now owned by Margaret Gooselaw Cleem. Eva Parenteau Wold was Mark’s sister.

13. St. Vincent Bank: It closed after the 1929 crash (exact date unknown, possibly 1938…) When it did, it was torn down. Bricks from it were used as a foundation for the Gardner home, as well as an underground septic tank for the Cleem home. Nearby a beer parlor was run by Buck Cameron.
Bank Trivia: When the news got out that the bank was
closing, a customer named Herbert “Bert” Hurd took his
shotgun, walked to the bank, entered, and said, “I want
my money!” He got it, too…
14. Montague (or “Mont” as he was known) Clinton was the man who ran the implement dealership in town on main street. They eventually lived up town, but at one time they lived north of my home, my Mom said. She was best friends with their daughter, Betty Clinton. Mrs. Clinton (Vera) was known for her hospitality and liked to entertain. She had ‘serial dinners’ where one group of people would come and eat, then another group would come and eat, etc. Beth said the time you came and left was strictly enforced!

15. Beth remembers these businesses in town when she was growing up:
- Lapp store
- Friebohle’s Garage
- Twamley brothers service station across from Friebohle’s in same block as fire station
- Larry Lang’s bar (near old post office, in same block)
- Barker’s beer joint with pinball machine; back then Fred Stranger rant it. Beth used to play pinball in there and she had a 45 cents credit on the machine that she never did get to play off!
- She also remembers a combination funeral parlor/furniture store in Emerson!
16. Once the school closed in the early 1990’s, Gordon Turner bought it. Then a cult came in that thought it was the end-of-days, and they really modified the building (sadly). Then Ron Bordeniuk who has modified it further, using it as a machine shop.  [Although it isn't past repair, it would not need extensive renovation and upgrades.  The roof needs entire replacement, and the foundation needs extensive repair.  Interior would need restoration of original room structures, wood floors refinished, etc.]

17. Beth’s mother Lillian had Phil Ahles try and fix her clock but when he didn’t get back to her, and she went out to see what was going on, he told her he had sold it. You see, he was often hard up to make a living for his family, and thus the assumption was that he sold it for feeding his family. They eventually learned the clock got into the Richard Fitzpatrick family’s hands, specifically his daughter Rita’s [who is my cousin and gave me my own grandmother’s silver-plated casserole serving dish that she won at the St. Vincent Fair for handiwork she had entered…my mother figured Rita got it from my grandmother’s home when Grandma was breaking up housekeeping and many people came and went and just took things.  But that is another story!]

Beth remembers her mother always talking about her clock, complaining how Phil Ahles had sold it, and how now it was out in Bismarck, where Rita eventually went and lived. Meanwhile, Beth graduated high school in 1948 and eventually went to nursing school. She was going to a conference of some sort in Bismarck one year and thought of her mother’s clock. She told her mother, I am going to stop at Rita’s and get your clock back! Her conference was on a Saturday. The next day on Sunday she went to get the clock but no one was home. She and her friend went and ate, coming back later to find Rita home. As she entered the house she introduced herself and why she was there.  Rita then raised her arm to point to the clock, which was hanging on a wall, up her stairway on the first landing. Beth told Rita she wanted that clock - her mother’s clock – back. Rita gave it to her. However, the clock STILL needed fixing.  When they took it to a shop to get it fixed, it cost $16 but she only had a $20 bill and the shop had no change.  She didn't quibble at this point and paid the repair bill despite this - further insult to injury.  However, it was finally fixed, and she presented it her mother.  After many years, twists and turns, mission accomplished.

Kristine & Beth visiting me, looking at old photos & sharing stories.