By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN For many people who grew up in Dassel, the steel water tower was an iconic piece of the landscape and created a sense of nostalgia.
Despite its removal March 16, the memories of the former tower are still alive, and with the help of the City of Dassel they will remain at the surface for generations to come with the new video “Water Tower Memories.”
On the day the water tower was being dismantled, Elisabeth Schmieg captured several hours of footage as a way to preserve history.
Schmieg and Mark Davis, a producer with the Sherburne/Wright Cable Commission, did some brainstorming on how they could better capture this historic event.
They came up with videotaping a narrative of the history of the water tower and included interviews with several Dassel residents.
The end result a 25-minute video, narrated by Roland Dille, includes photographs of the old water tower, and people willing to share their water tower memories.
Some stories revealed escapades of young, daring men of Dassel who took their lives in their own hands by climbing the water tower.
Sonny Nelson, of Dassel, for example, told of some daredevils who climbed up the water tower and spray-painted the numbers “62” in honor of that year’s graduating class.
After this incident, a gate was installed on the bottom of the tower’s ladder, he said.
For eager youngsters, the water tower was a sign of home.
Carolyn Holje remembers singing a song as the family drove back into town and caught sight of the water tower. It was a game for whomever would see the water tower first, to start singing “I see the water tower . . . I see the water tower.”
Ann Bollman also shared her story of what was a disappointing move for her from Litchfield to Dassel as a 14-year-old.
When the family drove into Dassel for the first time, her dad said to her “Do you see that water tower? This will be your new home now.”
Bollman went on to tell her own children that when they saw the water tower, they would know they were close to home.
When doing research on the history of the water tower, it was revealed that it was actually built earlier than originally thought.
At the time the tower was taken down, the earliest photo of the tower found in the Dassel Area Historical Society archives was from the early 1930s.
Since then, a photo of Dassel resident Phyllis Carlson was uncovered with the steel water tower in the background. The photo was estimated to have been taken around 1920.
Also in the video, Dille shares how the editor of the Dassel Anchor, the city’s newspaper at the time, wrote in 1915 of the tower’s deterioration and that something needed to be done. He suggested a steel tower with a steel tank. “Everyone was doing it that way,” Dille narrated.
Dille went on to explain that the tower was likely built before 1920, “probably just after World War I, when steel became available for domestic use.”
‘Water Tower Memories’ now available for viewing
Dassel’s cable access channel, Channel 20, is now airing “Water Tower Memories.” It can also be viewed on the City of Dassel web site, www.ci.dassel.mn.us.
The documentary will also be available as a DVD for $10, which can be purchased at the Dassel City Hall or the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum.