Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

Sept. 15, 2001

At Bill's Grill in Waverly last month, Mary McDonnell Anderson of Minnetrista and her sister, Catherine McDonnell Westrup of Winsted, entrusted me with a family heirloom.

They handed over to me the entire edition of the 1933 Waverly Star and Montrose Tribune.

Cathy and Mary belonged to the distinguished Wright County family who were the owners and publishers.

Mary and Cathy even worked on the paper themselves, beginning at ages 12 and 14, but since Cathy wasn't born until 1933 (yes, her birth was duly reported in these pages), she says she cannot be held responsible for spelling or grammatical errors.

Neither can Patty Klich, since she didn't start her copy-reading stint with the Waverly Star until she was in high school - long after her father's tragic death at the age of 54, which you will see reported here. A lot happened in 1933.

Patty Klich told me a charming story about the publisher, Francis "Marks" McDonnell.

As copy reader for the paper, she said every time there was mention of a Waverlyite flying off to some exotic destination such as Chicago, she would change the name of the airport in Minneapolis to "World-Chamberlain Field" even though Marks had written it as "Wold-Chamberlain Field."

When she discovered her error, she asked Marks why he hadn't corrected her and he told her he didn't want to hurt her feelings.

I have by now read the entire edition of The Waverly Star for 1933 and have drawn some conclusions, one of which is that this is the best history course I have ever had.

Nothing brings a culture alive like a newspaper. The hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows of a whole community are revealed here. In this case, those of the people of my beloved Waverly in the year when the Great Depression was probably at its worst.

The paper was huge in size by today's standards. A page was 16 inches across and 24 inches long, although the newsprint was smaller than what we see today.

With facing pages spread out, it was about a yard wide.

The type was set in the galleys entirely by hand, and tapped into place with a wooden mallet.

The lead that was used in the linotype machine was first cooked and melted and, then, cooled just enough to receive the sharp indentations of the linotype machine, which used a standard typewriter keyboard.

It was still only one step up from Gutenberg. It was a most interesting process to watch, like visiting a factory.

The clattering of the linotype machine, the smell of hot lead, and Marks McDonnell's cigars were all a treat.

I had the privilege of turning in copy to Marks when I was in high school. I wasn't good enough to play baseball or basketball for St. Mary's, but I was allowed to be the scorekeeper and write up the games for The Waverly Star.

New Year's resolutions

The edition for 1933 starts off with some New Year's resolutions.

The men interviewed were the business and professional people of Waverly at the time, the same men who were in place in 1936 when my family moved to Waverly.

These are the same people Dan Herbst memorialized so well at the St. Mary's reunion Aug. 26, 2000, in his remarkable speech at the lake front that day.

Even though Dan is much younger than I am, he took us on the same stroll up and down main street that Marks McDonnell took us on in 1933 in order to collect the following resolutions for the New Year.

A. J. Ogle, proprietor of the City Restaurant: "I have made no resolutions for 1933."

As a side note, in the years to come, this would all change. During and after the "war years" there was an annual New Year's Eve party at Ogle's Cafe.

By then, Ches Ogle, one of A. J.'s sons, became famous for his aphorisms for the New Year. I remember a few of them.

"Go on a bun in '51." For 1943 it was "Forty Three Sheets to the wind, lads, forty three sheets to the wind." His brother Charlie was in the U.S. Navy at the time.

Joe Nuwash, hardware dealer: "I hope the old times come back, like they were when I landed in Waverly fourty years ago in 1883."

The Nuwashes were retired when I knew them, but I do remember how nice they were to little boys who came around. Their house was right next to Ed Hoover's gas station on Highway 12.

Joe Decker, proprietor of the Depot Cafe: "I resolve to be here when and if prosperity ever comes along again."

Joe stayed in business for years, and even if prosperity never found him, he did become rich in friends.

Ed Nolan of the J. F. Anderson Lumber Company: "I resolve to do the best I can in the next 365 days."

My father succeeded Ed Nolan as manager of the lumber yard. Our move to Waverly in 1936 was the best thing that ever happened to the O'Leary family.

G. A. Berkner of the Waverly Flour Mill: "I have new courage and will keep plugging along in 1933."

George went on to become mayor time after time, and a world-class sharpshooter, along with Dave Flannigan.

George had a keen, dry wit and was a friend to everyone in town, including young kids. He married Lenore "Lee" Larson, daughter of Malmar Larson and Alice Perra.

Malmar owned the furniture store, among other things, until the Great Stock Market crash when the family moved to the cities.

George and Lee had two daughters, Barbara and Virginia. Barbara became Mrs. Morry Rethlake and now lives in Austin, Texas. Morry was from Litchfield.

Dan Antil married their daughter, Robbin, and they now live nearby in Pflugerville, Texas.

It was a great pleasure for me to see Larry Antil Aug. 17 at Bill's Grill in Waverly this summer. Now I hope to visit with Barb.

August Martinson of Martinson's Pool Hall: "I have never made a New Year's resolution in my life and I am too old to start now."

I hope Lois Martinson Fitzpatrick sees this. She married "Red" Fitzpatrick, and they went into the bar business themselves down in Shieldsville. They were at the St. Mary's reunion last summer.)

Charles Jerry, the Blacksmith: "I am tired of the times as they are and will appreciate better times in 1933."

Russell Jerry, his son, ran a shoe repair shop and refused to be interviewed.

Charlie used to cure our warts but not over his forge. He used a string he tied around the wart and then put the string on the wall until it began to rot. It worked.

I got to watch him shoe horses more than once. Horses were still widely used in place of tractors right up until the 1950s.

Charlie Jerry was a kind, quiet man. He always welcomed visitors, as evidenced by his ability to cure our warts. The warts, of course, were caused by playing with toads, which we did whenever we happened upon one.

Ed Murray of the Murray Meat Market: "I resolve never to make any more New Year resolutions."

Ed had come down from Avon, Minn., where he had been in business previously and where he had managed the Avon baseball team.

Ed Murray and Adolph Kinkor, his sidekick, were always glad to see you, whether you could afford to buy anything or not.

Unfortunately none of the six Murray children live around Waverly now. "Duff" and his delightful wife "Lizzie" never had any children.

M. J. Padden: proprietor of Comfort Garage: "I resolve to give even better service this year. I look forward to a bright 1933."

Mike Padden later took over an oil delivery service after Frank Padden bought the Comfort Garage from him when he moved back home from St. Paul.

In St. Paul, Frank had an important office job with the State of Minnesota, but decided to come back to Waverly because it was a better place to raise a family, although the Paddens were originally Montrose people.

Bob Padden, Frank's son, worked in the family business until he sold it recently to the co-op in Cologne.

Bob married a Waverly girl, Rosalie Herbst, and they and their beautiful family still live in the Padden house where Bob was reared.

Frank and Florence (Fitzpatrick) Padden had three children: Jim, Bob, and Virginia. Mike Padden had two daughters, Marge and Phyllis.

Marge married Herbert Decker and Phyliss married Gilbert Main, who was a rival to the Paddens in the oil business. Marge and Phyliss are deceased, as is "Gib" Main.

Herb Decker stayed in Waverly and lives near his daughter Tammy, who married Ev Boehlke. The Boehlkes, another pioneer family, still farm.

Herb and Bob Decker live close to each other just down the road from Tammy's farm. Herb and Bob, of course, are Joe Decker's sons. I got to see them at the St. Mary's reunion. Sadly, there was no time to visit that day. There were just too many people.

Dr. B. F. Moll, dentist: "I never broke a New Year's resolution in my life because I never made any."

I wish I knew how many years "Doc" Moll practiced in Waverly. Everyone who ever lived in Waverly seems to have known and revered him.

His four grandchildren were at the reunion last summer, as was his daughter-in-law, Marge (Marjorie) Moll, who now lives in Arizona.

Jack Moll, Doc's only son, was stationed overseas for four years with my brother, Myles O'Leary, during World War II.

Before he left for the army, Jack ran for mayor against George Berkner as soon as he turned 21, the legal age to run for office back then. My father tried to interest Jack in one of my cousins, Rita O'Leary, one time, but nothing came of it.

Jack had worked in "the cities" until he developed multiple sclerosis, which eventually killed him after a long, hard time in a wheel chair, where he more than proved his heroism and goodness.

Miss Lu Gritz, local telephone operator: "I resolve to get to work on time during 1933."

Lu would always give you the time of day if you rang her up by dialing zero and said "Time, please."

The Olligs were such nice people to work for that they would have been tolerant of a little tardiness.

It was us customers who would be ticked off about it. If Lu wasn't there, you couldn't use the telephone in those days when everything had to go through the operator.

Lu, like most small town operators, knew everyone in town by their first name and all about them, probably more than she wanted to know.

Privacy? Forget about it.

A. S. Mellon, proprietor of the Community Store, was sick in bed and, no doubt, he resolved to get better (according to Marks).

Mr. Mellon was Waverly's Mayor in 1933 and, later, was elected and re-elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Although he ran the "Protestant" grocery store in town, he seemed to hire nothing but Catholics to work for him, including Betty Gritz and the gorgeous Eleanor Diers.

Joe Pususta, proprietor of the City Garage: "I quit making resolutions, but I will be here at the old stand to give out the best in auto service in 1933."

For years, every issue of the Waverly Star carried large advertisements for Pususta's Machine Shop, which was located right across from the lumber yard.

The Pususta family lived right beside the establishment, and the publisher of The Waverly Star, Mr. Francis McDonnell (aka Marks), lived with them.

He was Mrs. Joe Pususta's brother. Marks was always a bachelor, and since he chose to live with them there was always lots of Pususta news in The Waverly Star and Montrose Tribune.

In the weeks ahead, you will see this for yourselves, as I print more and more from the 1933 edition.

The ads for the garage read "Does your car start hard? Let us check it out for you. We can fix anything. If we can't fix it, we'll fix it so nobody can."

I always thought the ad was probably free to the Pusustas, since it was a large ad and took up half a page. Marks may have been thrifty, but he was not stingy. Marks is the one who solicited these New Years resolutions, most likely by telephone since Marks was horribly crippled from birth and had to walk with the aid of canes.

C. W. Cullen, manager of the Farmers Elevator: "We should all resolve to get back to the horse and buggy in 1933."

We lived next door to Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Cullen, who lived straight across from their elevator on Highway 12.

Jerry and Virginia Cullen were their children. They were twins.

Virginia married Joseph Burke, and they had one son, Jerry, who lived with his mother and grandparents during World War II while Mr. Burke was away at War. He was a Captain in the US Army.

Jerry Cullen later took over the management of the elevator.

Jerry's children are Catherine and Michael Cullen. After his first wife, Lois, died in the 1960s he married Virginia Berkner many years later.

Not long after Jerry's death, Virginia died in her home in Waverly, the Berkner family home, in a house fire Jan. 10, 1999.)

Clarence L. Strub of Hahn's Cash Store: "No more squalling or grumbling about business in 1933. I am sick of people talking about the Depression."

The O'Learys never got to know Mr. Strub, because he was killed in an auto accident before we moved to Minnesota.

He went off the road at the curve on Highway 12 just east of Montrose near the Great Northern underpass, the same place Roger Toussaint and Jackie Litfin were killed after the war.

This happened in 1935 and we didn't move to Waverly until 1936.

The Hahn Store later became Franske's Store, run by Henry and Catherine Franske, who moved from Watertown.

Catherine still lives in Waverly, and her son, Jim, still works in the same store, only now, the building is Pete's Grocery, managed by Pete Chmielewski.

Jim Franske, as a member of the Waverly Fire Department, probably sells more raffle tickets for the Fire Department than all the rest of them put together.

He even sold some at the reunion, a good thing too, because he caught a lot of out-of-towners like myself.

Tony Smith of the Jensen Hardware Store: "I don't believe in making resolutions that will just be broken."

Tony later opened his own hardware store. His only son Freddie, a wonderful boy, drowned during a St. Mary's Summer Festival held on Waverly Lake when one of the concessions was a speed boat ride.

The boat tipped over and Freddie drowned. He was laid out in the coffin in his altar boy cassock and surplice.

He had been a good friend of my brother Paul. Tony and his congenial wife, of course, never recovered from their grief. Many years later, after Tony died, Mrs. Smith became the housekeeper for St. Mary's Rectory when Father Keeler was pastor.

S. T. Klich, local depot agent for the Great Northern Railway: "I resolve to do the very best I can in the following 12 months."

Not long after, Steve Klich died of a heart attack in Delano, his home town, on Jan. 23, 1933, while visiting his mother.

There is lots more to come from The Waverly Star and Montrose Tribune.

Let's see how it reported on local doings and world news during the difficult and challenging year of 1933. See you next week with more blasts from the past.

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