By Robert Rekedal
This is the first part of a three-part series.
Fifty years ago, we arrived in town at the end of June to take possession of the Howard Lake Drug Store.
The Herald's requests for stories of the old days caused four families who live or winter in Sun City, Ariz., to recall the business area and some of the town characters. The fine points may be cause for conjecture or correction our excuse is our very old 81 year-old memory but this is how the town looked to us when we came in 1948.
A young druggist entered the drug store in Howard Lake at noon. He asked Gordon Scheer, who was behind the soda fountain, where he could find someone to help unload the moving van which had followed him into town from Wahpeton, N.D.
Everyone said, "Get Curly Marshall."
So that is how I was introduced to one of the many town characters which gave the community a unique family feeling We will try to show our impressions of the town when we arrived in July, 1948, and will use nicknames of people we came to know.
Wesley and Marguerite Scheer sold us the store because of his failing health, later diagnosed as a brain tumor. He succumbed about three years later. Strangely, his wife died of the same affliction 20 years later.
Ruth and I had a two-year-old son, Steven, and great hopes that we could stay here permanently. The war was over, and housing was very hard to find.
Scheers had located three rooms on the second floor of Skeeter Rasmussen's house, about 1 1/2 blocks south of Highway 12, just west of the school grounds. The stairs were so steep and narrow that Curly and Willy Greenhagen could neither get our electric stove nor refrigerator up there, nor much of our furniture.
The Scheers let us store our furniture and appliances in one of their living rooms. They found us a three-burner kerosene stove for cooking and an ice box to use. I think Phil Lahr delivered ice to us. Skeeter installed a flush toilet stool in a small closet so we were all set to begin our new life.
More than $50,000 had been pledged for a hospital which promised increased medical care for the community.
Hoot (Mark) Campbell lived alone on the corner lot north of Skeeter's house. Harold Bluhm built a home there later. Hoot didn't care much about keeping up the place. The grounds were quite unkempt and the buildings looked run down with a kind of old green paint. He was always very polite, a good story teller, and a good painter (for others). He was tall and thin and dressed like Uncle Sam for parades. His passion in life were his two big redbone coon hounds. Hoot was hard to find during raccoon season.
The Walter Hermerdings lived to the south. Mrs. Hermerding and little Darlene were very nice friends to the new druggist's wife. Walter drove a school bus and sold Watkins Products, mainly in the rural areas.
A new building had been erected housing A. G. Reiter's bank on the corner, a Ben Franklin Store and Custer's Super Valu Grocery. Later, the Ben Franklin area became a rental apartment and an office for lawyer Ken Gudmestad. The bank eventually used this space when it expanded to its present size. Needless to say, that we became acquainted with the bankers, A. G. and Howard Reiter, very quickly.
Summers were hot with no air-conditioning. We were expecting another child. Winter was coming and no easy way to heat the rooms we were living in. After consultation with the bank, they suggested we ask Eldon Luhman about building us a house.
Eldon was newly returned from the war, having served with the sea-bees. He helped us buy a piece of ground from Mrs. Caroline Farchmin, grandmother of Gordon Diers, which eventually became 1100 Fifth Ave, now owned by Dick Zander. We were permitted to live in the old Presbyterian Manse, just north of the present Presbyterian Church, until our house was ready in early February, 1949.
At that time we tried to hook up to the new sewer line in front of the property, but the disposal plant was not yet finished now replaced with a new one. In a few years, we added a garage and breezeway to the north side of the house. After the spring thaw, a very kind old man who lived south of the bank smoothed the dirt and sowed the grass, broadcasting by hand, like in the biblical days. His name was August Birkholz but we always called him "Golly, golly" because he used that phrase often instead of stronger words.
Eventually there were more than two dozen children on two blocks of the street. Harold Stelzers, Floyd Munsons, George (Porky) Mains, Rekedals, Bernie Zanders, and the Russ Pettits contributed their share. No surprise that we needed larger schools.
The drug store (the same building which now houses Howard Lake HealthMart Drug) had a real working fountain only about a year old and could do all the old-time things like making its own carbonated water for fizzy drinks and Cokes. Ice cream sodas were 15 cents, milk shakes 25 cents, and cokes were 5 or 10 cents, even the cherry variety.
Very soon we added coffee plus bakery treats and so started the drug store gang to swap news and settle affairs of the world. Later on a women's auxiliary also became popular. It was the bus stop for Greyhound Lines for passengers and freight. Prescriptions were filled on a bench behind a wall at the rear of the store. We had a peep hole in the wall to see what was happening in the store.
Our main employee was Betty (Banke) Koenig and when we were busy added Gladys (Hirsch) Gellert. Sam Redman had a barber shop (later sold to Elroy Boltz) beneath the store and Loretta Warne operated a beauty shop next to him.
On the east side of the building a door opened to the many steps leading down to the shops. Charley Stewart's meat market was east of the drug store. Once, when Ruth commented about the price of meat, he asked her if she had checked on the price of prescriptions lately.
We learned a lot very quickly. Charley's employee, Dale Hirsch, became a meat cutter for Hanson's grocery after they moved into that building. Hansons sold the store to Don and Lee Ann Horsch, who were there until their fire. Red's Pizza then occupied the building and later Steve Berg expanded it into a restaurant.
Judd's general store was east of Charley's market. The family lived above the store. Gordie liked to see our family of four small children come in for shoes. It seemed someone always needed shoes or overshoes.
There was a story about earlier days when men would gather around a stove in the back of Judd's store to talk. One time when someone offered to buy a round of bottled coke, Phineas Eddy said "If it is all the same, I'll take a spool of thread." (This was before my time).
A Gamble store, east of Judd's, was owned by the Stock family with living quarters above the store. One of their daughters Shirley, a cheer leader, worked behind the soda fountain for us. There must have been more than a 100 girls that helped behind the fountain during those 30 years.
Going east, there was a brick building housing Paul Rotsolk's Cafe (Model Eat Shop) which had a counter and several booths. This was open from early morning until around 11 p.m.
Railroad men would leave a freight train and walk to the restaurant for meals. Above was a nice apartment for Paul and his wife who did the cooking. Paul saved dimes for many years, finally taking them to the bank in a wheelbarrow when he had enough to buy a new Buick.
Next door to the Model Eat was another small restaurant run by Clarence Leachy. He opened at 4 p.m. and closed at 6 a.m. daily Where did the night life come from? Probably Highway 12. Shorty Davis owned the beer parlor and next door was Henry Ittel's meat market, slaughtering plant and meat processing business, now owned by Jim Ittel.
Henry and Roy Farchmin refined and marketed a hog de-hairing machine devised by Whiskey Ed Engel. In the fall, Ittels were swamped by the number of deer brought in for processing. This also was the home of an early locker plant where we could rent drawers in the large, walk-in freezer.
On the corner the Ford garage was owned by Fred Main. In early times, Henry "Out In Der" Vogel had it built by Henry Luhman, Eldon's father. "Out In Der" sold Fords and Buicks after World War I. Going south past a vacant lot, except for a large house, there were no more buildings in that block.
On the east side of the Winsted road, Henry Bringman's station sold Standard Oil products, with Leonard Bakeberg and Louis Hausladen the mechanics. Next was the Henneman house bought by Elroy Boltz, who became a postal worker after selling his barber shop to Harvey Luhman.
Then came the Pudlitzke house. The father was a tailor who could make suits, alter and clean clothes. He had recently moved from a building on Highway 12 into their large enclosed front porch. His son Reuben had a grocery and their sons were very good baseball players. On the corner stood the Masonic building with living quarters on the main floor.
South of Bringman's station on the Winsted road, the Strache brothers, Herb and Art, owned a very well-supplied hardware and plumbing business. "Thirty" Wells and Arnold Blanchard worked for them. A vacant lot came between them and the Howard Lake Herald building.
The Herald was owned and printed by Owen Konchal, helped by son Eddie. They lived above the shop, which housed the linotype machine and presses. This was sold to Dwight Van Der Haar who employed Pete Peterson as linotypist. Pete eventually bought the paper. The American Legion activities with their additions now use this area. Postmaster Fred Larson lived in the corner house.
Mike Mertzsaker built and operated a blacksmith shop in the building now vacant. The Howard Lake Herald was produced there and Luhman Antiques were the last tenants.
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