Sunday, July 08, 2012

Memories: Alan E. Wilwand

As a youngster growing up in Pembina, I had a second town - St. Vincent.

Wallace & Matilda Cameron's
Home during 1950 flood

[Photo:  Turner Family Collection]
My grandparents, Wallace and Matilda Cameron lived there.  I was crossing that old Red River bridge whenever I got the chance.  I loved my grandparents.  Grandma made the greatest date-filled cookies!  The house where they lived was north of Short's Cafe.  The house is gone now, but the memories linger on.  My grandmother was a seamstress and speculator.  She gave me the deeds to about half of the places that she had bought in St. Vincent.  Who knows?  I may own half of the town!

After WW II, my Uncle Ralph (Ike) Cameron worked at Short's Cafe.  He would give me those double ice cream cones, one side vanilla and the other cohcolate or strawberry, heaping the helpings.  Ma Short was taking a big loss on ice cream with those!

If walls could talk:  the
St. Vincent jail today...
I remember so many things about St. Vincent.  My Grandfather was the town constable.  I believe the old jail is still standing.  He gave me the big lock and key for it.  He also gave me the pair of handcuffs that he used.  I donated his daily log that he carried in his breast pocket, to the Kittson County Museum in Lake Bronson.  That diary saved his life the time that he was shot.  I believe the museum also has one of my paintings that I did of the old fire hall.  I remember the fire hall well.  This is where he set up his office once in awhile.  The depot that was established in 1878 was close by.  My grandparents' big barn floated down the Red River in the flood of 1948.

My mother, Verlie Cameron Wilwand, and her best friend, Marge DeFrance Oakes, were born and grew up in St. Vincent.  They remained best friends throughout their lives.  Marge called my mother "Plug" because she was short and couldn't keep up with Marge.

My uncles and aunts grew up in St. Vincent.  They were:  Melford (Brickie), Polly, Ralph (Ike), Winton, Elliott (Jack), and Gerald (Red).  Brickie was a fighter who trained under Jack Dempsey's manager for awhile.  When the fair would come to town, Brickie, a drifter by then, would always take the challenge of those fighters in the big tent.  He would get $50.00 if he could stay for three rounds.  He never lost!  I always felt sorry for those who challenged him.  Wint was in the Devil's Brigade, the toughest brigade in WWII.  He was wounded twice.  His wife gave me his purple heart medals.  Jack was in the navy during WWII.  He served on the destroyer, USS Fletcher.  They sank a Japanese cruiser.  Ralph fought in Europe and North Africa. He was able to visit Wint when Wint was wounded and in the hospital.  Red was in the army during WWII.  The four boys were all in the service at the same time.  I remember my mother and Grandma Cameron sitting together and crying when they would talk about the boys and would read letters from them.

Dick's Corner, circa late 1950s
After the war, Red tended bar for a time at Dick's Corner Bar in Pembina, which is now owned by Kris Wilwand.  Ralph always worked in Minnesota and North Dakota, but the othet three boys eventually went to California.  Polly ended up living in Valley City, ND where she married and raised a family.  She still has two daughters who live in ND.  

I have so many memories of St. Vincent that I am sure I could also write a book.  Places I remember are:  Short's Cafe, Ahles' store, Buck's bar, Stranger's bar, Friebholt's garage, the blacksmith shop, the curling rink, and the town hall, just to name a few.  The city dump was located near the river outside of the present dike.  I used to find interesting things there, i.e., WWI army uniform in perfect condition.  I took only the buttons.  I only wish I would have kept the whole uniform.  I should have found out who it belonged to, but I was only a kid.

I was born in St. Vincent over 80 years ago.  Doc Harris was the doctor.  He did make house calls.  I was born at the home of Mrs. Al's.  She took care of women and their babies for a few days after they had given birth.  The house still stands.  If you look to the right on the cemetery road going in to town, it is the first place you will see.  I have two brothers, Cameron and Michael.  Cameron still lives in Pembina and Michael lives in California.  I now live in Nebraska where my wife and I have been ranching for the last 36 years.  Before that, after I served 4 years in the Air Force and graduated from the University of ND, we lived in Califiornia for 20 years where I was a high school teacher.  All through the years I have been a musician (Piano) and an artist of many different media.  We have 5 children, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great greaddaughters.  A lot of water has gone under that Red River bridge in these 80 years...