Interview with Mildred Nelson Gann Wyman, August 20-22, 1995
NOTE: Transcription edited by Gerald Lowell. Most of this interview occurred while Mildred and Jerry were looking at old photo albums compiled by Mildred. Questions asked or comments made by Jerry appear in italics. The interview was conducted off and on during the 3-day period. Some names have been deleted to preserve anonymity.
Daily Life as a Child and Young Adult
Looking at pictures taken by Mildred of all the places where the Nelson family lived. Is that you? Yes, that's me. I'm about 5 and that's Millie Hofland, and there's Lil and there's your Mom, Alice. And here we are--look at me with this doll, I think that's the only doll I ever had in my life 'cause my mother said that I smashed it--bashed it; I got mad at it so I bashed it on the sidewalk. I can remember that she also said that I only had one pair of roller skates. How come only one pair? Mom said, "'Cause you took them apart and Dad couldn't get them back together again.
We all went to grade school at Ben Franklin.
Look at this one. This was on East 7th. That's Lil, Maxine Hofland, Grandma, and Dad's old car--the old '31 Chrysler. Isn't that a gas? And this is at 1316 East 7th also. And that little gal lived next door to us, where the Rennie's lived, you remember old man Rennie? She lived upstairs in the apartment; her name is Marcia Bramer and her folks now live up in Washington somewhere. She lives in Texas. There's Lil and Wes and his old delivery truck, when he worked for Nielsen Mercantile Company--the grocery store. Remember the Nielsen's that lived next door to us on E. 7th street? They had a grocery store down on Main Avenue.
We moved to Pipestone when I was in the 6th grade.
Do you have this picture? Here's Lil, Ingrid, Harold, me, and your mom. I don't know when that was. We must have lived in Sioux Falls. This must have been the last time that Ingrid came back before she married. The first time that she came to visit us and we met her at the bus depot, she gets off the bus, she has a fiddle under one arm and a tennis racket under the other. And I looked at that and thought to myself, "Oh, dear God, do we have to listen to that?"
Where did you and Grandma & Grandpa live as the family was growing up? Well, they were at Arthur's, then Helga and Martin's. My mother hated their mother, Karen [NOTE: Harold Nelson's aunt], with a passion. She was a mean lady. And the reason I know this is because when Peggy was born, I was going to name her "Karen Eddie" and I told my Mother that on the phone and I thought she was going to break my eardrums. She said "You name that child "Karen" and I'll never speak to you again!" And that's when I found out that she did not like this woman.So they lived at two different farms? Yeah. When did they come into town? Gosh, I don't know. I was born when we lived at Grandma Thompson's so that would have been 1923. You lived at her house? Yeah, we lived there. Well, I was the only child then. I don't know how old I was there but it was at the corner of 10th Street and Prairie Avenue and it would have been the house on the southeast corner. That house isn't there any more. But her name was Mrs. Thompson and we always called her "Grandma". We'd go to visit her. She wasn't a relative of ours? No, she wasn't a relative.Where did you go from there? I know we lived at 605 Nesmith, we went from there to 815 N. French, from there to Pipestone, from Pipestone we moved back to Sioux Falls to 1316 7th, from E. 7th we went to 810 N. French. But before Nesmith, I know that my parents lived in another place on the west side of town up by the Cathedral somewhere and that would have been before Thompson. Or maybe it was after because I think they lived there when Lillian was born. I think it was like an apartment. I'm trying to think of who owned it. Was their name "Trudy?" or "Kirby?" They were ritzy, a well-known family in that side of town. Catholic. I'm surprised that my Dad would live in a house with a Catholic. Really? Did he hate Catholics? (Chuckle) "Don't you dare bring home any of those Catholic boys here!" He didn't like Democrats either. He didn't like Republicans either. He was a Democrat, right? Sure, he was a Democrat. And he thought that my Mother was a Democrat too. He went to his grave, thinking all that time that she was a Democrat. But she never voted Democrat, I don't think; she always voted Republican. [NOTE: Grandma used to say to me that she voted Republican simply to cancel out Grandpa's vote.]
Did you share bedrooms growing up? Oh, yeah, we always shared bedrooms. When we were older Harold and Dad shared a bedroom. Really? Yes. When we were older. And Momma and Alice and Lil and I. Now where was the house where you didn't have plumbing, was that Nesmith? We had cold water. We might have had a toilet. But there was no bathtub. There was a pump in the kitchen sink. Now how old were you then? Well I started kindergarten when we lived on Sherman so I don't know. Harold was born in 1927 so I was born in 1923 and I was five when I started school so that would have been 1928. But you were kids? Yes. So how did you wash? Every Saturday night was bath night. Every Saturday night Mom heated up the water; she heated the water on the stove. And she didn't change the water after each kid, either. We shared the water. Did Grandma work? Never. She took in ironing when we lived on E. 7th street. But she never went outside the home. Now where did Grandpa work? Northern States Power. Was he also there at Pipestone? Yes, because that's where he was transferred. I was in the sixth grade so this would have been '34 'cause we lived in Pipestone for 3 years. We moved up there in '34 and came back in '37 cause I was a freshman in high school then. Did you notice in my genealogy notes that Grandpa worked as a mechanic according to his separation records from WWI? I didn't know that. He worked on a railroad, I knew that.
When did he get out of the service? April, 1919 And then he went back home to Norway? Yes, but I don't know for how long. He came back from Norway in 1921. And Mom and Dad met on the boat coming over, right? Yes. He talked about working on the railway but whether that was before Mom and Dad were married, or before he went into the service or when it was, I don't know. When you were growing up, he was always at NSP, right? That's the only job I knew that he had. And he retired I think when he was 67 because so many of the men had been called into WWII and they were short so he worked two years longer.
What are your earliest memories of your Mom and Dad? I can remember my mastoid operation. That was on Sherman. I had that surgery at Moe Hospital which would have been at the corner of 14th and Maine. There's something else there now. I don't know how old I was when I got that doll but I remember Mom telling me that I only had one doll 'cause I bashed it. And old H.D. [Mildred's dad] said no more dolls and no more roller skates either. I must have been the renegade of the bunch. I was always getting into trouble. I also got a lot of spankings for things that Lil did. I remember about the time that you took everyone to the circus Oh yes, I did that, we lived on N. Nesmith then. I did. Dad was supposed to get off work at 3:00. I was getting impatient. He was supposed to take us to the circus. Remember where the circus grounds were? Harold was little. I piled him into the doll buggy that we had, took Lil and Alice, and away we went. Boy, did I get thrashed for that! Dad strapped me. He always had the razor strap hanging by the bathroom sink. Maybe I didn't get strapped then because I was little. How old were you then? Oh, gosh, I must have been six or maybe seven.
Did Grandma give you spankings too? You're goddamn right. When we lived on E. 7th street, we used to go hide under the bed from her. We'd get way back over in the corner against the wall. We'd hear her coming up the stairs saying "Well, you might as well come out 'cause I'm not going to forget! You might as well come out and get your punishment now." And we did. Did you come out? You bet.
So what did you do for fun? Oh we played lots of games--tag, "Mother, May I?", "Starlight, Starbright." We climbed trees.
So what would you have for breakfast when you were growing up? Oatmeal. In winter. And that bowl of oatmeal would sit in front of my brother every morning. I guess Mom thought that one of these days he's going to eat it. But he never did. Harold didn't like oatmeal? He couldn't get it down. I don't think I ate cream of wheat. And in the summer, what did we have? Oh we had eggs, and cereal, cold cereal--cornflakes. What did you do for lunch? Lunch could be hard boiled egg sandwiches and cocoa. Really? You know what I had on Sundays for lunch growing up? Egg salad sandwiches and cocoa. Mom would make hard boiled eggs and slice them. And Kool-Aid. She always had a great big bowl of Kool-Aid in the refrigerator. And what else? I tell you one thing that she never ever did fix and that was a tossed salad. I don't remember ever. She never fixed a tossed salad. She had the vegetables. She'd make that wilted lettuce. And we'd have sliced tomatoes. You know, Dad always had a garden--when he lived where he could have a garden. What vegetables did he grow? He grew potatoes, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, beets. I didn't have a tossed salad until I started working for the phone company. What would be a typical dinner meal? Always meat, potatoes, and gravy. Did you eat as a family? Oh yeah. Unless I was working. But growing up we always ate as a family.
Was Grandma active in the church? We went to church. They both went to church. Did you go as a family growing up? We didn't go to church--we went to Sunday School. 'Cause we wouldn't sit still in church. They took that church down.
Special Events as a Child and Young Adult
And look at this picture. Now I've seen that picture before. What was the event? 1941. Well, I don't know. Harold's confirmation? He was confirmed the year that I graduated. This is probably high school of some type--you wouldn't be wearing gowns for a confirmation. Maybe we just did that to have fun.
Mildred finds a report card from high school and can't remember the teacher's name. Look, I got a "D" in English Literature. Do you believe that? Oh well, what the heck was that old witch's name?
You were voted "Best Athlete?" Yes. When was this? In Washington High School, the year I graduated--1941. "Voted the Best Athletes of the School are Don "Red" Allen of Football, Basketball and Track and Mildred "Blondie" Nelson of the GAA and gym classes." Isn't that a kick in the butt!
And look, here's Harold and you. Harold got confirmed and I graduated. Look at your prom gown. Was it expensive? No, I don't think so. I don't know, my Dad bought it. We wore blue--royal blue.
And there's my friend, Betty. Do you remember the Langdons? They lived behind us when we lived at 815 N. French. They lived on Fairfax. They're the ones, they lived in the house where Isabelle Jones used to live. And Isabelle Jones had a Halloween Party. Lil and I (I don't think Alice went--I don't think she was old enough). But anyway, we went to the Halloween Party that Isabelle had, and little Estelle Baker, she lived up on the corner at Fairfax and Third. They had an outhouse and Estelle was in the outhouse using the john and some boys tipped the outhouse over. She got out alright, but she lost her jack-o-lantern--it went down the hole. I can remember her crying, just sobbing, mad because she lost her jack-o-lantern. What year was that? When we lived on 815 N. French.
Did you have big Christmas celebrations? Did you have lots of presents? Not lots of presents. We got presents. But not lots. Did Santa Claus come when you were growing up or not? He came at the church. I don't remember there being Santa Claus at home. We usually got something that was useable and we might get one toy. But we always had a Christmas tree and we had a Christmas tree with candles on them. When did you light the candles--Christmas Day or Christmas eve? We'd light them for a little while at the nighttime 'cause you had to watch them things. We had them at 810 N. French.
And then I can remember one time I was in high school and my mother had to bake angel food cakes for the church. So Dad went down to the Nielsen Mercantile and I was sitting in the back seat of the car and I had this great big old box of eggs in my lap and we're going up 8th street and you know right on the hill approaching where the Metz Bakery was he decides that he's going to pass this car 'cause it's going too slow. Well it was kinda' slick and he started around it and we started to slip and then we whipped around like this and bounced around on the curb on the other side of the street and he's cussing "God damn drivers! People don't know how to drive!" And here there were broken eggs everywhere. And I had a new coat with a fur collar on it--a red coat, and a pretty fur collar and there were eggs every which direction. I was so mad at him that I could have killed him.
He was going to teach me how to drive and I said "Forget it." Me behind the wheel of the car with him in it--forget it. I didn't learn how to drive until we moved back from Pennsylvania and moved out to the Air Base. And that's when I taught myself how to drive, out in those back streets. He was the world's worst driver. Did you ever ride with him? No--I don't think Mom ever let us. How he ever got a license I'll never know.
During WWII, Lil, your mom, and I were on the living room floor. This was at 1316 E. 7th. We were playing cards. And your mother grabbed that old rocking chair, remember the old rocking chair that he had, he always sat in it with his ear up to the radio. No TV in those days. Just the radio. He was sitting there and this announcer came on and said "Flash" and Dad got real excited, he thought there was going to be some more war news so he turned around and told us to "Shut Up. Be quiet." So, okay, we're quiet, being very quiet 'cause when he spoke, you better listen. Here comes this woman on the air and she said that they were having a clothing sale at Fusfields. And we cracked up, we couldn't help it. He got so upset with us, he made us all go to bed, yeah he did-- sent us all to bed.
And one time, we were living on E. 7th street, and I can't remember who was still out, but it must have been about 10:30 at night. Mom and I were in the kitchen. Dad was working. And we heard the front door open and Mom always yelled "Lock the Door!" when the last person who was out came home. But this old drunk had wandered in. He lived in the next block up the street and the houses were pretty much the same. And my Mother had a fit. And I said, "It's okay, he just thinks this is his house 'cause he lived in the next block." So I steered him back out and told him that he had to go another block. I can't even remember what his name was. But Gudrun, she was upset.
While looking at a picture of Kermit Sunde, Mildred, laughing, said that she'd slept with him. I asked, "Did you actually sleep with Kermit? Yes, when we were little. In the old farmhouse, where Siggie's house is now. There was an old farmhouse there and it burned. So they built another room. But we slept upstairs when we were little. When I was back visiting, I asked Kermit if he remembered when we slept together. And his eyes got big and then I said "When we were kids!" And I said "Remember when we used to get caught smoking in the cornfields?" We'd take the corn silk and roll it up in newspapers. We got caught smoking.
Was this at Helga and Martin's? Yeah. Siggie's family was there too, correct? Her dad and mother worked for Helga and Martin. And you grew up with them?] Yeah. [Did they live in a separate house? When they worked for them, they lived in the original old house and Helga and Martin had converted the big old garage into a house. And Helga and Martin lived there and the Sunde's lived in the old house. I'll never forget one time, this was before the Sunde's went to live there, but I had to get up and go to the bathroom during the night. And I came down those stairs and I had forgotten to take the chamber pot upstairs, and I came down and I grabbed this thing and I thought that I had the chamber pot, went back upstairs with it, and did my business and went back to bed. The next morning, Evelyn came upstairs and I heard this shriek and I had picked up the pressure cooker. And do you know, Helga boiled that thing for days. And we used to pick green beans. They canned them. Those were fun days. And isn't it funny. Siggie and her sister Jean used to love to come into town and stay at our house. And then we'd go out there to the farm. And the ice cream socials that they used to have. And the barn dances that they used to have. We used to sit on the side out in the barn and watch them dance. The farmers in the areas would get together.
We lived in Pipestone, Minnesota and it was Christmas vacation. And I went out to the farm Helga and Martin's? Yeah. And I went to the old schoolhouse that's on the corner to visit 'cause I knew lots of the kids. They had an ice pond out in the front. During recess time we were out there sliding. Some person nudged me and I slipped and went down. One of the Looning girls, she was big, a big kid, she toppled down on top of me and broke my right arm. Broke it in two places. How old were you at the time? I guess 13 or 14. Well, they were having a blizzard, snow was coming down, and I had to get to the hospital in Dell Rapids. And I had a mad crush on Stanley Evans and here he came up with a big old cattle truck and they plopped me up inside the cab of that thing and he drove me to the hospital. And my old heart was just going flutter, flutter, flutter. I had to stay overnight in the hospital.
And then another time, I was the one that was always getting hurt, when I was out at Helga and Martin's I went over to visit Emma Larson but there was this calf tied up to a tree and dumb me, I maybe was 11, I was going to walk up and pet it, like you would a dog or a cat. Man, I caught close to that thing and it hissed and I got tangled up in the rope. It broke the rope away from the tree and that calf drug me through cow shit, barbed wire, and I was a mess. Well, Martin came over and got me and Helga cleaned me up and she was having a big fat fit and I guess you know, I went home that next day, ending my vacation on the farm.
How did you get back and forth to the farm? I guess somebody must have come and got us because we didn't have a car. We didn't get our first car until Dad was in Pipestone. And he got that with his Veterans bonus. And it was a 1931 Chrysler. He only had two cars in his lifetime. That one and then the '37 Chrysler that Wes had for a while. [Now which one is it that the steering wheel came off of? The '31.
Did Grandpa ever talk about WWI when he was in the Service? No, not much. I remember in the old trunk, there was a canteen, his old military hat and that long skinny picture showing him and his fellow soldiers, and an old medical book. I don't know what Mom did with that stuff, unless Harold got it.
Dad always said that they shipped out of Camp Devins in Massachusetts and he said that he never got overseas. They got to the middle of the Atlantic and the armistice was signed so they turned around. He said that everyone on the ship cried--all of the men. I have in my records Camp Dodge, but that was when he was discharged. I think it's still active in Massachusetts.
What was the Depression like? Do you remember the Depression? Dad worked at Northern States, but we lived next door to the Hoflands. The Catholic Church up on the corner of Cliff and Eighth, not the Church itself but the building to the north of it, they had a soup kitchen there. When Mr. Hofland was laid off work from Morrell's, I can remember him going with his red wagon and kettles up to the soup kitchen, getting food for the day. They got food from the food kitchen.
Were you disliked because Grandpa had a job? No. I don't think so. There were too many people out of work. And I don't know if Dad worked... if I remember right he worked all of the time but he took a cut in pay. Pickings were slim. Lots of time we had bean soup and stuff like that. But we didn't suffer.
Can you remember when Grandma became a citizen? I can't remember when she became a citizen. But I remember her going to night school. I just noticed that Eilif Smevik became a citizen the same time that Grandma did. Yeah, they went to classes together. She became a citizen in 1931. Yeah, that's when I thought it was. I can remember her going to night school.
Talking about how Grandpa might possibly have arrived in the States.
You know, it seems to me that Dad said he worked on the railway and I think he said that it was in North Dakota. But I don't know when. And it seems to me that it was the Great Northern Railroad.
Remembering Things Norwegian
Did they ever talk about Norway? Not much. I can remember getting the letters. Momma would hear from Tante Oluffa and Tante Anna. I think those were the two who wrote the most. Did Grandma ever talk about why she came here? Yeah, she came to work for a great aunt No, it was just her aunt in Brooklyn and the woman wanted someone to come over and Mom was the only one wanting to get away. And after looking at that picture of Ingeborg one can understand. Did she talk much about her mother? No, I don't recall.
When were you born? In '23. Mom's mother died in '37. So you didn't have any knowledge of those grandparents? No. Was there any discussion about them? No. None. Did you even know that you had grandparents? Oh yeah. We knew we had them. We knew nothing at all about Dad's parents. But we knew about Mom's mother, Ingeborg. We knew about her.
Did she cook Norwegian food? Rasplekumla. That I can remember more than anything. Did she ever make lefse herself? No, I don't remember her making lefse but we had lefse in the house all of the time but I think she got it from the church ladies. We also had blood pudding. I think she made krumkake. Did she cook lutefisk? Oh yes. When did you have lutefisk--special holidays or all of the time? I don't think it had to be special holidays. It was whenever they had the urge. Do you like lutefisk? NO. Did I ever tell you how she told me how they made lutefisk? She said that they caught the fish, threw them out in the street letting the horses run over them for a week, and then they'd bring them in and cook them. There was also a cheese that they used to get--primost. And gjetost. Primost. That was the most godawful stuff in the world. Did they eat it a lot? Oh yes. Dad loved it. Did they put it on something else? They put it on bread, I think.
Did Grandpa ever receive letters from relatives? I don't know. I have no idea. I only knew that he had those two sisters, Hansine and Petra. Did he talk about them? I don't know if he talked about them or if Mom talked about them. Were they referred to as half-sisters, step-sisters, or just sisters? Sisters. I never knew that they were half-sisters. Did you ever have visitors from Norway You mentioned that one woman that came--Grandpa's relative. I don't know who that is. Did you have any other relatives visit, other than Ingrid? Just that guy, that Uphold. I can't remember who he was, but he must have been related to Helga. What year did he come? Well, we were at the Airbase. Were you already married? Oh yeah. Helga brought them out. There were also relatives of Grandpa in Canada, and relatives of Grandma in Minneapolis. Did you know that? I thought that there were relatives in Minneapolis, we went up to see them one time. But that was years and years back. But they were Grandma's relatives? I thought that they were Dad's. Doesn't your mom remember going up to Minneapolis? Ingeborg had a sister and this sister had three children and they lived in Minneapolis. Ask Evelyn about that Uphold guy. Note: Did check with Evelyn; he wasn't a relative.
Did they speak Norwegian when you were growing up? Yes, I could only talk Norwegian when I started kindergarten. I couldn't speak a word of English when I started kindergarten. When did Grandma and Grandpa switch over to speaking English? I taught my mother English. How did you do that? By going to school. I learned words at school and I'd come home and Momma would say something Norwegian and I would say "No, no, no, it's this." Was she purposely trying to learn to speak English or were you just slowly getting her to speak English? Slowly but surely getting her to speak English. Did she want to speak English? Yeah, I think so. But then I'd go back to school and my sentences would be half Norwegian and half English. Words I'd learned I'd interject where they'd fit. Did the other kids speak Norwegian in school? No, I don't think so. My mother told me this, so this is how I knew. So Lillian never spoke Norwegian? I don't think so. I think I was the only one. Then I would forget the Norwegian. And then when they'd want to talk about something that they didn't want us kids to hear they'd speak Norwegian.
Grandma finally stopped speaking Norwegian altogether, correct? Yeah, she did. All I remember her saying are those little ditty things. Do you remember those? Yeah. Do you remember the saying for the fingers? No, I don't remember that.
Do you remember Eilif? Oh sure. When Dad came out, when we lived in Portola Valley and Dad came out on the bus by himself, that would have been in '58 or '59, he came out to see us and we drove down to southern California to see Gertie and Eilif. [When I was talking with Sonja [NOTE: Eilif's daughter], we looked at pictures from when Grandma and Grandpa came out with Harold and John to see them. Yeah, that must have been when they made the trip through Colorado and they made the trip on that tram in the mountains. It was so weird when Sonja brought out her pictures and she had a photo album from Guam that Harold brought Eilif and Gertie. He had brought the same one to Grandma and Grandpa but I don't know what happened to it. Do you remember the collage that I made for Grandma? When I asked Mom what happened to it, she said it was all rotten and that she had thrown it out. [All that I have from Grandma that I have preserved is her cowpox vaccination and her confirmation certificate.(TOP)
Working and Living at the Air Base
And this was when I went to work for the phone company. "Began my telephone career in October 1941 as an operator for Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, Sioux Falls, South Dakota." And this was a year later; I was training to be a supervisor. I was 19. I lasted about 3 months. I hated supervising so I went back to operating.
That's the guy I was engaged to be married to before I met Ray. Man, am I ever glad that I didn't marry him. He was from Center, Iowa. He was a momma's baby. His name was deleted. He was a nice enough guy but that marriage wouldn't have lasted.
I worked in the Service Club. The telephone exchange had a room off the balcony. So you could look down. We'd have to go downstairs to use the paging system to page the GI's when their phone calls were ready.
Looking at a picture containing Uncle Ray.
This was a musical variety that they put on at the Service Club. (Reading from a clipping:) "The Section H Shoe last night was a huge success. The Quintet gave out with some solid renditions including among others ... "Pennies from Heaven", featuring Ray Gann, who is known throughout the field for his unique vocal rendition. What instrument did Ray play? Guitar.
Looking at a picture of Mildred in a bathing suit. You know, that was so funny. We were over swimming before I met Ray. At the swimming pool, I was just on this towel and this guy came along and he had a big camera and wanted to know if he could take my picture. I said, "Sure, I didn't care." He wasn't in Army clothes. But anyway, later, after Ray and I started going together, it turns out that the guy who took the picture was one of Ray's instructors at the Airbase and he was showing these pictures to the class and that's when Ray saw the picture.
This is the guy that we went to see in Branford--Eddie Circone. Remember when we went to see him? He's still playing. I hear from him every Christmas. Where is he now? I forget but I hear from him.
I got married in November of '44 and then we moved to Pennsylvania in '46. Eddie was born in '45. We were stationed down in Mississippi and then I was pregnant with Eddie and Ray was sent to Stuttgart, Arkansas and he was supposed to go overseas so I came home. That's why I was living at 810 N. French.
Here's Siggie. She was my maid of honor. Lil and Alice were my bridesmaids. And there's Fred Hughes.
Where were you married? At the airbase chapel? At the Chapel, Chapel 3. The reception was at Mom and Dad's house, 1316 E. 7th.
This is when Ray was stationed in Ocean Springs. This was Christmas, '44. I didn't go down there until January, '45. This was when he was stationed at Stuttgart, Arkansas.
This is Barbara Ann when she came to see us when we lived down in Portola Valley. I have a whole bunch of those pictures. She said, "Eddie was so cute but I was the homeliest thing." And I said, "Barbara, you weren't really that homely; you were just fat!" I'll never forget your Aunt Lil entered Barbara, when she was a baby, in a beauty contest. In Sioux Falls. I laughed so hard. Lil said, "Well, she didn't get the prize for being the prettiest baby, but she got the prize for being the fattest." God, I laughed.
Looking at more pictures, including ones of the Airbase during a flood. Look at the Airbase. That's our barracks, right there. Were you flooded? You bet. Sure, we had to move out. We moved all of our stuff out. We moved it all out over into Dad's garage. Wes came with his.... [How much flood water did you have?] Oh, I don't remember. But we got out. Frank and Doris Sturm lived in this barracks down on the end. The jeweler? Yeah. He's gone now. But they lived in this barracks here down on the end, and Bob and Ruth Erickson lived in the middle and we lived in this one here. We had three bedrooms in there.
This was when we moved back to Sioux Falls in January '49 from Pennsylvania.
Here's Ray's band. "Ray Gann's Quartet." Yeah, they played at the American Legion.
Looking at the picture of Christmas at 810 N. French. I don't know what year that was. Arnie was in the service and he came home on leave. I think I'm pregnant with Peggy.
This is Red Smith. We lived in Pennsylvania, we lived in Gettysburg and we subscribed to the Philadelphia Inquirer and I was looking through this one section and here was this article about Red Smith, Ray's friend. He was in Germany.
How'd you meet Ray? At the Air Base. I worked there for Northwestern Bell. We had attended telephone exchanges, we had 3 of them out there at the airbase. One at the Service Club, and one at Building 8100, which housed the Negro mess hall. They were segregated then, and I liked to work over there cause they had the bakery over there. Oh, those black guys could cook. They'd always bring us over cookies and goodies. They had the third telephone exchange at the Officers club but I rarely worked there, I didn't like working there. My favorite spot was the Service Club's telephone exchange for non-commissioned personnel. And Ray was stationed there. He used to come up and place phone calls and that's where I met him. I often wondered what happened to a lot of those guys. You know, one time, while I was coming home from Mississippi when we were stationed down there at Ocean Springs, I was pregnant with Eddie, the first born. And Ray was being sent to Stuttgart, Arkansas, and he was supposed to go overseas from there and I thought that there was no point in going there so I would just go home. So I did. Well, on the train from Chicago to Sioux Falls, the Milwaukee Arrow, there's four GI's sitting in the same car sitting down further in the aisle. And in those days you could take the train seats and move them so they'd face each other. But there was this one guy on the window side facing me and he kept staring at me. They were sitting there playing cards so finally he got up and here he came. And he said, "Excuse me, you look very familiar. Have you ever been in someplace in Massachusetts? And I said I live in Sioux Falls South Dakota and that's where I'm headed. And he said that's where I'm going to. By that time the Air Base had been made into a reclassification center. It wasn't a radio school any longer. These guys would come back from Europe, be reclassified, and sent somewhere else. And I said, Well, I used to work at the Air Base and you could just see a light bulb go on in his head. And he said "You're Blondie, aren't you?" And I said, "Yes, that's my nickname." And he said, "You worked at the Service Club, didn't you. At the telephone exchange." And I said, "Yes I did." And he said that he had been stationed there before he went overseas.
Trace where you and Ray went. We got married in Sioux Falls. He was supposed to have been made a permanent part of Sioux Falls as an [inaudible] instructor. Well, we got married on Nov. 18, and he shipped out early December and they sent him to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, which is near Biloxi. He was with the Air Sea rescue. They patrolled the Gulf of Mexico. And he was on what they called [inaudible] boat. Off duty he wore Army clothes. On duty, he wore Navy clothes. From Ocean Springs he went to Stuttgart, Arkansas. I went home. From Stuttgart, Arkansas, he went to Harlingen, Texas. And from there he went to Langley Field, Virginia, and he got put on a lot of overseas shipments but they always got scratched. He never did get overseas. And you were in Sioux Falls all this time? Were you staying with Grandma? Yes. He was discharged in Feb. 1946 at Camp Lafall(?), Madison, Wisconsin. He came back to Sioux Falls. [So Eddie's already born?] Eddie's born. He was in Stuttgart, Arkansas when Eddie was born. In August of '45, that's when Eddie was born. Ray couldn't find a job, so his best man, Fred Hughes, lived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and he called one day and said he had a job for Ray if he wanted to come out. So out he went. That was in April. And I followed in May, Eddie and I. May of'46. In 1947 Peggie was born in Gettysburg and we came back to Sioux Falls in Jan. 1949. We stayed with Mom for just a few weeks until we could get into Air Base housing. And then we moved to the Air Base and we lived there through the first flood and we got out just two weeks before the second flood in 1951 and we moved to S. Western Avenue right off of 18th street. And Ray planted all of those trees and somebody has taken them all away. From S. Western we moved to Colorado. We stayed with Frank and Doris Sturm for 2 weeks and we then moved from there into a motel on W. Colfax and we stayed there for a few weeks until we found a house that we rented. What was Ray doing in Colorado? He worked for a freezer company and that was in the days when they sold the freezer with a meat package. He worked for them. We lived in that house for a while cause that' where Eddie got bit by a dog. The kids were playing tag and the dog chased them and got Eddie right in the rear end. They had to take him to have stitches.
And from there we moved to Black Hawk, Colorado, which is 35 miles west of Denver. From Black Hawk, we moved to California in 1954. We stayed with Ruth and Ed Sawyer for a few weeks until we could find a place to rent and that's when we went to Los Trancos Woods in Portola Valley. And I lived in Portola Valley for 24 years, from '54 to '78. And then came up here. [Selma, Oregon] But I lived in different houses in Portola Valley. Oh, we lived in Pittsburgh, California, for six months. Well, we lived in Portola Valley and then we went over there for six months; Ray worked for Jewelty, but we didn't like it over there, it was too gal' darn hot. And here I am.