Picking a college-Late in my senior year in high school I began thinking more about college. I knew I wanted to go to college, but did not know for sure what I wanted to study. The number of kids going to college after high school was definitely in a minority. About all I knew was that I wanted to go to a catholic college if at all possible.
My sister Rita was a junior at St. Catherine’s in St. Paul and she was studying Home Economics. She wanted to teach Home Ec, as it was called, and she did so for at least a couple of years after she graduated, in Belle Plaine and New Prague, small towns just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Sister Lois had taken nurses training at St. Joseph’s Hospital and St. Catherine’s college in St. Paul and was working as a nurse at the time. She would later, go back to the University of Minnesota and get her degree in Public Health Nursing.. My oldest sister Cleo went to a business school in Duluth. She liked Duluth because the climate there was kind to her hay fever. Also, I think my Uncle Joe and Aunt Esther Landolt and my aunt Vern Ley lived there. We three kids looked up to Cleo because she was the oldest, the smartest and first to be out on her own and earn her own living.
I had my eye set on going to Creighton University to study pharmacy. However, to save a little money I apparently decided to start at St. John’s University in a pre-pharmacy program. I had gotten to know a bit about St. John’s because my buddy Phil Arendt’s dad, Joe, would drive us up there once in a while in his big Buick sedan to a football game. Also that is where Dad, uncles Ray and Jerry, had gone to prep school.
St. John’s University-St. John’s was and is quite a unique place. It had a prep school, a monastery, an abbey, a university and home of the Liturgical Press. The regular college that I attended had maybe 800 or 900 students. 1949 was still sort of a post war year and so we had a number of students that were vets and being older and more experienced in a lot of things, they had their impact of on student life.
St. John’s Men’s Chorus-A big part of my experience at St.John’s was the Men’s Chorus. In the fall of my freshman year I tried out for the chorus and was accepted into it. Father James Kelly (with whom I just spoke to by phone on 2/17/09 after being emailed his tel no. from cousin Dick Ley. He is 93 years old and living in Hopkins. I had not talked to him since our wedding in 1955.)) had only recently been put in charge of it so everything was sort of new. I was soon to learn that he had big plans for us. Bob Eddy, a veteran and junior, was the business manager. We practiced for an hour or two every night right after dinner. Bob Eddy was busy arranging for a spring tour to various places in Minnesota. I also wanted to play baseball, so I tried out for the baseball team as a pitcher in the spring. Father Dunton, the coach, and Father Kelly soon made it clear to me that I could not do both. Because I was not a sho-in candidate for making the baseball team (college was quite different from high school), I decided to stay with the men’s chorus. I later became the business manager in my junior year and was busy arranging for a much more aggressive tour, by the spring of my senior year. I traveled to Winnipeg, Marshfield (WI), Milwaukee and other places to meet with potential sponsors and was successful in selling a concert about 50% of the time. The chorus traveled by chartered Greyhound bus that was all painted up for us on the outside. We even had our own driver who stayed with us for the whole tour. I can’t remember where we all went, but some of the towns/places I remember are St. Scholastic’s women’s college in Duluth, St. Theresa’s in Winona, St. Paul auditorium, Mount Mary’s college in Milwaukee, Bemidji, Marshalltown, WI and several other cities around Minnesota. We even made recordings at a studio in Minneapolis. I have copies of some of the recordings, but have not played them in years until recently. They are not in good condition and don’t sound that good anymore. My first taste of a filet mignon was at the spring wrap up dinner for the chorus at the 400 club outside of Rockville. It was delicious.
One of our members in my freshman year was Wayne Freund, an outstanding baritone from Rugby, ND. He appeared on the radio in Minneapolis, etc. For some reason he did not want to make a career of singing. He was so good that many thought he could have made it. He quit school after his freshman year and went back to the farm in ND. I was a good friend of his and he even came down to our wedding to sing for us.
My experiences with Father Kelly were something else. He was a very tough taskmaster and a perfectionist. He had perfect pitch. He often required me to meet with him on Sunday evening in his studio to go over our tour plans, etc. He was touchy feely, if you know what I mean, and it was uncomfortable, but I did not respond to his advances. He had a very good side and we were sort of friends and he attended our wedding in Cold Spring. I understand that later on the Abbot reassigned him to a parish in far northern Minnesota. I never had any contact with him after our wedding.
Freshman year-Due to the influx of post war students the school erected a series of military type barracks on the north end of campus and that is where we freshman were housed. These barracks were heated, but it got cold in the winter. During the first freshman semester I shared a room with Don Lamb from Minneapolis and Pat Lewis from Duluth. Don went on to have a very successful legal career in Minneapolis and Pat Lewis became a successful radio and TV announcer in Seattle, Washington. The second freshman semester I roomed in the same barrack with Jim KcKeown from Albert Lea, MN. Jim went on to earn a double doctorate in Math and Physics at Iowa State and then worked for 3M. After we graduated I never saw any of these three again, but did run into a number of other classmates later on, mainly at our 50th reunion at St. John’s in 2003. I took my pre-pharmacy courses, which included chemistry, german and analytical geometry. I had a really hard time with German because of all the grammar and I never learned English grammar. As a result, I dropped out of German before it was too late. I also had a hard time with analytical geometry, in part at least because they let me take it without ever taking geometry. If it weren’t for my roommate genius, Jim McKeown, I don’t think I would have made it. We went to study hall every night and would stay til closing at 11 pm. It was a tough routine and without the experience at Cold Spring I don’t know if I could have survived. Yes they did have an initiation routine, but it was pretty tame. We wore small green bennies for the first month or two and had to do whatever seniors asked us to do. For some reason I think the presence of so many vets put a damper on things, as they were too old to play such petty games.
Smoking-All through my grade school and high school years I did not smoke and most of our gang did not either. One exception was Phil Weber. He was not a regular smoker, but I think got into bad older company even while in grade school and would play cards and gamble and smoke till late at night while in 7th and 8th grade. I don’t think he did that when in high school. Anyway, when I got to college, I started to smoke (and inhale) cigarettes. We would go down to the cafeteria, have coffee and smoke. I smoked all the way through my senior year, about two packs a day, and even tried pipes during my senior year. Sometime during the summer after graduation I decided to quit smoking cigarettes and quit cold turkey for good. I would still have an occasional cigar, but not many.
Uncle Ray’s death-My life changed forever after Uncle Ray’s sudden death on a hunting trip in the late fall of 1949. Dad was very distraught. In fact, as we learned later, he had a nervous breakdown and talked Ray’s widow Putch, his brother Gerry, and the one or two other stockholders into selling the bank. I don’t know what Dad was thinking he would do for a living. The bank rep from Marquette National Bank in Minneapolis brokered the sale to a Mr. Jim O’Brien from Dickinson, ND.
The new owner asked Dad and his brother Gerry to stay on for at least a year, because he knew they were well liked in the community and would be a big asset. I started to take an interest in how much the bank was worth and soon learned that Dad had sold it for far too little. The new owner was a very fine gentleman and soon realized that Dad was sick when he agreed to sell the bank and that Dad had made a mistake. Within a year he agreed to sell it back for what he had paid plus his expenses. Dad bought back more shares than he sold and clearly became the controlling owner. This experience, plus my problems with German, caused me to rethink my major and I switched to Business Administration beginning my second year. I was sort of planning to go to work in the bank after graduation.
Sophomore year-As a new business administration major, with a minor in philosophy, the sophomore year was almost like starting over. I moved to St. Benet Hall, which was a four or five story dorm right next to the quad and thus very convenient. We continued to take all our meals in the main dinning room. For breakfast it was open seating, but for lunch and dinner we had assigned seats. We sat at table of about ten and were served family style. The servers were mostly jocks who did this to help pay for tuition and board. I don’t think there were scholarships for jocks and that may still be true today. My roommate was Tom Krause from Austin, MN. We got along great together. I later on became best man at his wedding in Austin. Sandy and I visited he and his wife Carol many times in Normal, IL where he worked for State Farm Insurance Company.
My course schedule that sophomore year was something of a disaster. Father Martin, an economics professor and something of a principal in the administration, was my advisor. He had me sign up for Epistemology and Metaphysics (study of God’s existence, etc.), in my first semester, even though I had not taken the prerequisites of logic and psychology. I loved this course, but it was taught by Father Ernst who was proud to say that only God would get an A from him and that few would get Bs. C was considered a very good grade and most would get Ds. I got an F, my one and only F ever. I took the course a second time the following year and got a D, I think. I did manage to get As in all my business courses so that helped a bit.
One other unfortunate thing happened to me that year. I started to play poker late at night. Not a lot of money involved, but it was addictive almost and robbed me of much needed sleep and study time. The main culprit who helped get me into this (however, I will not duck responsibility) was Oscar Smith, a very charismatic black man from the Bahamas. We had curfews at about 11 pm, but we managed to get around that in someone’s room.
Meeting Sandy-Sometime during the spring of my sophomore year I went with my buddy Phil Weber on a date he had with Helen Theisen from Cold Spring. He had met Helen at a dance in Cold spring. I did not have a date but just went along for the ride, I guess. Anyway, it was a fateful trip because I went into the house with him to meet Helen’s family and in the process saw Sandy for the first time. She was actually called Sani by most of her friends. She was beautiful(see pic below) and I was impressed. She was exactly the kind of girl I was hoping to meet someday. She was a junior at St. Boniface High School. About a week or two later I went back with Phil who had another date with Helen. I was planning on asking Sandy to go with us/me. I just assumed she would be home, available and willing (not very presumptuous or inconsiderate do you think?). Turns out she was baby-sitting at a neighbor’s house about ¼ mile down the road. Someone had the brilliant idea that maybe Ermie, Sandy’s younger sister, could sub for her. I think Helen called Sandy and asked her if she wanted to go along with this plan. She did, so we went down and made the switch. We probably went to a movie in St. Cloud. I was smitten, but I was unsure the feeling was mutual with Sandy. She had a mind of her own for sure and expressed it frequently. This, and probably my stubbornness or other ‘virtue’, led to some disagreements, but somehow we overcame those and stayed together even though apart physically. We dated a few more times that summer and then I went back to start my junior year at St. John’s. Sandy and a couple of her girlfriends went to Minneapolis that summer to get a job. Older sister Helen, who was also working in Minneapolis, was to keep a sharp eye on them (ha). Sandy got a job with Sears that served her well for the next few years. She came home (Cold Spring) most weekends and that gave us an opportunity to get together.
Sandy’s home and family-Sandy’s house was a small ranch with three bedrooms, a master bedroom, a small bedroom for the three girls and a large bedroom with two big double beds for the four boys. The living room was long and about ten feet wide. The kitchen was small by today’s standards, but very adequate. They did not have an indoor bathroom at that time. The outhouse was located about 100 feet from the house and on the coldest winter days they used an indoor pot because it was just too much to use the outhouse. Central heating was from a large wood burning stove in the dining room. They had a large garden and front lawn. They also had a large garage which also served as a chicken coup because they raised chickens and (at times) rabbits. The house was located on the north bank of the Sauk River about one mile SW of Cold Spring. The river flowed from west to east and upstream was a chain of maybe ten lakes stretching past Richmond about seven miles west. In front of Sandy’s house the river had a pretty good current and did not freeze solid during the winter. Just to the west of Sandy’s house was a small bay that did freeze over and provided the ice rink the kids and cousins used. This setting was very picturesque and cool in the summer and as a result they usually had relatives and/or friends visiting them every Sunday during the summer. When I first met Sandy they did not have a telephone. It was not long before they got a party line, which is what we had in Watkins a few years earlier. With a party line you had to listen to how many rings there were to know if it was your phone. Anyone else on your line could listen in and they often did. All in all Sandy’s young years were tougher than mine, but they did not mind because they had a large family and were happy to have what they had.
Sandy’s Dad was Steve. He worked for the Cold Spring Granite Company in Cold Spring. He was one of fourteen children (see below). He was a very easy going man and well liked by everyone.
Sandy’s Mom was Rose(Schutz). She was the real head of the house and somewhat of a disciplinarian. She, not unlike many others in her situation, was a very hard worker and had to be. She was the oldest of 12 children.
I got along very well with both of them and felt the feeling was mutual. Because they both came from very large families, there were a lot of uncles, aunts and cousins. The closest ones were Sue and Paul Thiesen who lived in Cold Spring and owned the elevator there. They had two sons, Ed and Cyril. Cyril worked in the elevator, never married and eventually took over running the elevator when Paul died. Cyril died when he was about 60. Ed, was two years older than me and also went to St. John’s. He was very smart. He joined the Marines after graduation and went into the officer’s training program. Ed was an accountant like me and after the service he worked for Northern States Power Company and rose thru the ranks to become President of the company for several years before retirement. in about 1995. He and I got along very well and as I say later on he even roomed with me for the last semester of his senior year at St. John’s in 1952. He married Kathy Hennen from Watkins. Kathy was in my class and valedictorian at Kimball High School. We did not see much of Kathy and Ed for many years until they rented a home out in Sun City West, AZ in 1998. (See our 1998 SCW rental below.)
Sandy had two sisters and four brothers. See above pic taken in 1942-Harold-12,Helen-11,Alvin-9,Sandy-8,Ermie-7,Jim-5,Dave-3
Harold was the oldest (7/11/30). He went into the Air Force, served in peacetime France, then U of M, business major, worked in Chicago for a short time and then settled in New York where he now lives and is still working full time while continuing his writing career. He never married.
Helen was oldest of the girls (11/14/31). She married my buddy, Phil Weber, while he was in service out in Stanford, Washington, and settled in Chisholm, MN. Phil taught school in Chisholm. They had three children-Mark, Kelly and Paul. Helen and Phil got divorced in 1983 and Helen then married Dale Olson. Helen and Dale lived in Duluth for several years and have now settled in Sun City West, AZ. Phil never remarried and now lives in Chisholm, MN.
Al (3/8/33) joined the Air Force after high school and made a career out of it. Al married Leona (Lee) Dillinger from St. Joseph on December 29, 1953. They had 5 children. After retiring from the military he worked for a government agency in Washington and Lee worked for Tandem computer Company. They live in Arlington, VA.
Ermie was next (8/7/35). She married Willie Ophoven from Watkins. They had three sons-twins Jeff and John and Jim. Jim died from cancer almost ten years ago. Ermie and Willie lived in Plymouth for many years and now have homes in Sun City West and St. Michael, MN. Willie was an Optometrist in Minneapolis.
Brother Jim (2/20/37) was next and he also joined the Air force and made a career of it. He married Barb Reilley from Ames, Iowa. They have two girls and live in San Antonio, TX.
Last was David or Dave, who went to the U of MN and got an engineering degree. He married Carol Van Sloun from Richmond, MN. Carol died of MS on April 3, 1983. They had five children. Carol and Dave lived in Roseville, MN, a north suburb of St. Paul. Dave then married Devada Linder in 1986. They continued to and still do live in Dave’s house in Roseville. Dave was an electrical engineer with 3M in St. Paul.
Jobs in 1950 and 1951-I cannot remember what I did for a job between my freshman and sophomore years (1950) Probably the same kind of odd jobs I had in the summer of my later high school years. Between my sophomore and junior years (1951), however, I hooked up with Gordy Linn and the two of us contacted Ray Stelton, who used to live in Watkins, but had moved way up north to a small town (Big Falls) NE of Bemidji. Ray was a very wiry and rugged guy, but had a very good job, as project superintendent, with McGarry Brothers Construction Company out of St. Cloud. They were one of the main highway contractors in Minnesota. Ray was in charge of a stabilizing crew and said he would give us jobs as flagmen on a highway project he was in charge of near Foley, MN. Stabilizing involved digging out frost boils from the road and filing them in with fresh gravel. Then there had to be gravel hauled in for the entire road and graders would work it over and spread it out evenly until it was ready to be rolled/packed and ready for asphalt paving by the next crew. We were to meet him there on a Monday morning in early June. Gordy had a car so he drove up there, about 50 miles from Watkins and NE of St. Cloud on HWY 23. We found the construction site and Ray Stelton without a problem and then he put us right to work as flagmen on either end of the 15 mile or so project. Toward the end of the day we were free to go into town and look for a room and get settled. Our pay was about $1 an hour which was considered pretty good. We stayed on that job for about three or four weeks until it was finished. Ray then asked if we would go to his next job up by Bemidji. There we would be promoted to driving a tractor pulled roller that paid $1.35 an hour and offered the chance of time and a half overtime. We, naturally, agreed. We were tempted to ask for a truck-driving job at $1.75 an hour, but that was dangerous and we were not quite ready for it.
This next job was the rebuilding of a north-south state highway #89 from US 2 about 5 miles west of Bemidji to the southern boundary of the Red Lake Indian reservation a distance of about 20 miles. We went up there on the Sunday before work was to start and found that several of the truck drivers and equipment operators were staying at a very remote ‘resort’ on Island Lake, a small lake about three miles west of the highway we were working on and just south of the Indian reservation. We stayed in a cabin with several other guys and were lucky to have our meals included in the office/home of the owners. We worked twelve-hour shifts, I think from either 6 am to 6 pm or 6 pm to 6 am. Gordy and I rotated shifts on the same roller. It got real lonely and scary out there from about 10 pm to daylight. There usually was zero traffic between those hours and all we saw were eyes in the woods and an occasional visit from the night foreman. We had occasional rainy days off and that is when we went into Bemidji for a movie and up to Red Lake in the reservation to just look around. Indian life was pretty grim. The only thing they had going for them was a commercial fish processing plant. They netted walleye pike from the ¾ of this big lake.
One day when it was raining real hard, I was driving back to our cabin and saw three Indians walking on our 3-mile dirt road and getting soaking wet. I stopped and offered a ride and they piled in. We drove back further into the woods about 2 miles beyond our ‘resort’ on the narrowest of dirt roads winding between the scrub pines. When we got back to their camp, a group of tents and lean too’s, the ‘road’ stopped and there was no place to turn around and it was still raining very hard. Several Indian men got together and by brute force turned my car around on a dime, so to speak, so I could get out of there. I have no idea what they were doing there. Naturally, I was a bit up tight being surrounded by all these Indians.
By the time school was about to start, the job was almost completed and Ray must have found some soon to be laid off truck drivers to do our jobs. Gordy was going to St. Cloud State and for me it was back to St. John’s. Even though it was about 200 miles back to Watkins, I think we drove home almost every weekend to get laundry done, etc.
Watkins gets liquor-Watkins was in Meeker County and located just ½ mile south of the Stearns County line and one mile west of Stearns County along Highway 55. Now Stearns County was wet and had local option and Meeker County was dry with no local option. Anyway, I suppose it was just a matter of time, say about 1950, until Hib Shoen, who owned the bowling alley and beer joint in town, arranged for a small strip of land along the highway from town to Stearns county, to be incorporated (annexed) into Watkins. He then bought a small piece of land in Stearns County, just across the county line, that would then be part of Watkins. He built a liquor store, bar and restaurant on that site, Hib’s Milestone Bar and Restaurant, and for a few years it was quite popular. He even had live music on most weekends. We would go there once in a while to have dinner or just have a drink and do some dancing.
In 1952, Meeker County voted to go wet and have local option. Watkins voted to go wet and with that issued several in town liquor licenses. I remember that they cost about $3000 a year and that was thought to be quite high. I think only Klein’s Hotel, then renamed K&K Liquors, and maybe one other beer joint bought the license. This all had an apparently big adverse effect on Hib’s Milestone, because sadly Hib took his own life in the basement of his Bar and it only stayed open maybe a year two after that.
Junior year-My junior year I was in St. Mary’s hall. It was brand new and replaced the barracks. My roommate at first was my childhood friend, Phil Arendt, who had transferred to St. John’s after one year at St. Cloud State. Phil was madly in love with Jo Moe from Minneapolis. He had met her during one of his summers at the family cottage near Perham, MN. After about a month or two Phil disappeared and only surfaced to let me know he was transferring to St. Thomas in St. Paul so he could be closer to Jo. Thus the last month or so of the first semester I did not have a roommate.
Beginning with the second semester I had a new roommate, Ed Theisen from Cold Spring. Ed was a senior day student. but either had to or wanted to spend some time as a resident student. He was also Sandy’s first cousin. Ed was a business major and very good student. He joined the Marines Officer’s Training after graduation, then went to work for Northern States Power Company, in accounting, and rose through the ranks all the way to President. I did not see much of him for many years, but after he retired he and his wife Kathy (my classmate and valedictorian at Kimball high), spent several winters renting in Sun City West. We met again there and for a couple of winters spent some time golfing, etc. together. Ed got renal cancer a couple of years later and only lasted about one year. We attended his funeral in Minneapolis. Sadly his wife, Kathy, died suddenly a couple of years ago.
It was during my junior year that I met Skip Lloyd and Jim Kramer, both from Bismarck, ND. I took the train to Bismarck one Christmas break for a few days visit and Skip came to Watkins for a few days visit the next over Easter break. I saw them a few times later on in life. (See Part II).
Dating Sandy-During my junior year Sandy was a senior in high school. I got to see her as often as I could on weekends, usually by double dating with Phil and Helen. Sometime during that year I gave her my senior class ring from St. Boniface and I think she accepted it. Once or twice she gave it back to me when we had one of our ‘disagreements’, but then she took it again when we made up. The summer before her senior year, Sandy was crowned Miss Cold Spring and that meant, among other things, that she represented Cold Spring at the Sauk Rapids Winter Festival. She did not win that contest, but we were all real proud of her being in the contest. Silly as it may sound, I think I was kind of jealous of all the attention she was getting.
Job in 1952-For the summer between my junior and senior year at St. John’s I accepted a job with Ray Stelton’s Mc Gary Brothers stabilization crew as a timekeeper. This meant that I would get a company car, a very old Cadillac (I think), and have a flat salary of $75 a week. I did not get the car on this first job and thus had to buy a used Ford with a small loan from the bank. I sold the Ford later that summer after I got the company car. The first few weeks I understudied with another timekeeper on a job between Herman and Morris about 100 miles west of Watkins. I stayed in a room in Donnelly, about half way between those two towns, where my office was located. As timekeeper, my main job was to collect the time cards from all the hourly workers and prepare the weekly payroll. It usually took a day or two to do this and then I had to drive to St. Cloud and have the controller sign all the checks. When I got back to the project I distributed the checks to either the foremen or the workers themselves. There were some other reports that I had to prepare as well, but basically once the payroll was done the job was easy. One Saturday Sandy drove out to Donnelly with me so I could show her around.
After the job in Donnelly was finished, I got a call from Ray Stelton, who gave me a long list of names and telephone addresses for truck drivers, equipment operators, etc. He said to get down to St. Peter, Minnesota, about 100 miles south of Watkins, right away and start calling all these people to get them down to a new job he was starting in a few days. I got the details on using a calling card (my very first time) from the main office in St. Cloud. I set up shop in the telephone company’s St. Peter’ office and it took me about 2 days to make all the calls, including callbacks, etc. This was a great new experience for me. My office was to be a lonely trailer office located just off the highway about half way between St. Peter and Gaylord, the stretch of road we were doing. I decided to stay in Gaylord. I got to know some of the truck drivers and equipment operators a bit more on this job and it was eye opening. Except for the grader operators, who got maybe $4 an hour and were a cut above everyone else and could call their own shots, the others were a mostly nomadic rowdy bunch of losers. I felt sorry for them and their lot in life, but later on I was to meet some of the same types in the Army.
Senior year-In my senior year I stayed in St. Mary’s Hall and roomed with Tom Krause, yes the same guy I roomed with in my Sophomore year. In some respects this was a lazy year, because I was planning on going to work at the bank in Watkins and thus did not have the pressure of finding a job, etc. Occasionally, I would either hitch hike or take a bus to Minneapolis to see Sandy, At this point she was graduated and working at Honeywell and rooming with three other girls at 3400 Blaisdale Ave. which was a north/south street one block west of Lyndale. I could take a bus from downtown Minneapolis to just one block from her place. I had to leave at about 9 or10 pm to catch a bus back to St. Cloud and then another to go back to St. John’s before curfew at midnight or so. Sometimes I had to get off the bus out on the main highway and walk the mile or so back into campus.
It was in March when I was determined (foolishly) to go back to Watkins and there was a terrible snow storm/blizzard. Cannot remember who was with me, but we hitch hiked into St. Cloud and then, because the road to Kimball was closed, we hitch hiked to Paynesville and then somehow hitched a ride to Watkins. This took most of all day on a Saturday and we could not get a ride back on Sunday. Somehow we got back on Monday. The following weekend there was a similar storm and we stayed put. I think there were three weekends in a row with such storms.
One of the few luxuries we had in my senior year was to go into to St. Cloud on a Friday night and have a filet or similar dinner at the Modern Bar. We were able to have a gin martini because we were almost 21 and at least looked old enough. Once in a while we went into St. Joe to the bar on the west end of town and right on the highway.