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Dean's Corner


Dean graduated in 1961. I'm sure you'll enjoy the memories he has written about his life in Spring Valley. You can e-mail him at toinvest@mwt.net

Memories of Grandma Jensen's Zoo
Spring Valley Memories


Mollie Jensen's Zoo - and other attractions

a collection of memories from Dean Blegen, Mollie's grandson

Click here to go to a web site that contains photos and a detailed history of Mollie Jensen's Exhibit!

 

 

   I have many memories of this place near River Falls which now is an open field with only a small house located on what was a very remarkable tourist attraction when I was growing up.

   I did not know it at the time, but according to this article, some of Grandma’s ideas came from the Dickeyville Grotto located about 10-miles northeast of Dubuque, IA in Wisconsin. Her love of animals created the Zoo that made it famous.
    Year’s after Grandma left the farm, she lived with her daughter and son-in-law near the college in River Falls where I stayed with five other UW-RF students when I attended college Our rent there was only $6- per week, but I got by with only $3- per week because I was family! In fact my total tuition my first year at UW-RF was only $217.50! (That would be 1962.)
    Grandma had a wonderful sense of humor too. One morning I got back from a heavy date in the Cities about 7:00 AM, when Grandma tapped on the window as I got out of my car and motioned for me to come in and see her. When I did, she reached for the calendar and flipped forward 9-months and marked it and laughed while she winked at me. (Maybe Grandma was harkening back to her own youth!)
    Obviously everything has changed since then. Gasoline was 2-bits per gallon, my wages in the gas station was $1.35 per hour and the movies were just 50-cents! Now I’m just as old as Grandma and everything has changed.

 

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More recollections from Dean:

 

Stories from Grandma Jenson’s Zoo

By Dean Blegen-Grandson of Mollie Jenson

 

   Grandma had many different animals at her Zoo.  Many of them were from the woods of Northern Wisconsin, but some were not, and those are the ones I’d like to write about here.

The African Lion was a prime example of that.  His name was Powder and he was very tame, but he was still a Lion and my Uncle Harold told me his story. 

   Grandma bought him from a traveling vagabond that was visiting River Falls and was charging twenty-five cents to peek into the wooden box that he was kept in. Unfortunately the guy was starving the Lion as he spent his quarters on “booze”.

   The Depression was in full bloom and Grandma offered him $100- cash for the lion and he took it. When he sobered-up, he went out to Molly’s home claiming that she had “cheated him out of him living”.  Obviously he lost his argument!

   However……Grandma had no place for the lion on a dairy farm and all of the other animals were “Fair Game”. So the boys (Harold & Lloyd) were commissioned to build a large cement chain-link cage for Powder.

   While this was going on, Harold was feeding the Lion some meat as that was all he would eat through the bars on the wooden box. That made the Lion Purr as Harold would scratch his mane at the same time.

When the cage was finished, Harold got the bright idea to go into the cage and wrestle with Powder! (Not a good idea!)

   As Lloyd pulled-up the opening of the box so the Lion could enter the cage, Harold was ready.  Powder leaped upon Harold with his paw placed right on the middle of his chest while he put his mouth around Harold’s leg!!!!

   The Lion was really playing with Harold, BUT…..how was Harold going to get his leg out of the Lion’s mouth?  

   He was hanging by one hand on the side of the cage while his other hand was still free.

Meanwhile Lloyd went to the house to get the shotgun. (Uff Da!)

Harold was in serious trouble and he knew it. If they shot the Lion, Grandma would probably shoot BOTH of them!

   However Harold took his free hand and grabbed the Lion’s lower lip and pushed it down over the Lion’s sharp lower tooth which hurt the lion and he immediately opened his mouth and ran to the other side of the cage. Harold escaped out of the cage and slammed the door. 

   That was it, nobody to my knowledge ever entered the Lion’s cage again.

   Grandma fed her animals quite a bit of dated bakery goods because it was all free. For other animals, scraps from the locker plants in the area, was their food.

   The bears would eat just about anything, but Grandma soon learned that if she fed the bears meat, they would get “Ugly”, and so she fed them bakery goods. One of them was a frequent rider with Harold in the back seat of the old Chevy with the “suicide” back doors.

   Harold would remove the bottom cushion and load the bear into the back and go bar-hopping on Saturday nights in River Falls and Hammond. Grandma went to bed when the sun went down so I doubt that she knew what Harold was up too. The bear loved to ride in the car and usually went to sleep like a dog. When the car stopped, it wanted to get out like a dog. 

   One time Harold saw a hitchhiker, stopped the car and motioned for the hiker to “Just get into the back of the car”. When he opened the door, he met the bear ready to get out and slammed the door! Imagine that?  

   One day she asked me to take a bucket of meat down to the Lion’s cage. I was instructed to NEVER stick my hand in there to retrieve his metal dish not far from the door. There was a yard stick nearby that I could reach his dish with to allow me to pull it under the door.  I would dump in the meat and then shove it back under the door. I did that many times.

   On this day the Lion was watching me reach for his dish and immediately pounced on it with both paws and refused to let me have it. (A dog would’ve been wagging his tail anticipating a meal). He roared at me and then I pulled on the yardstick harder. That made him mad and he roared his displeasure and then he rammed his huge claws out of his paws and made eight holes on that metal bowl.  WOW!!!

I said, “Grandma I don’t think he’s hungry”!  She said “Leave him alone and do that job later”

   Later…..he was again relaxing on his elevated perch in his cage and I tried putting the meat into his dish again and he didn’t even flinch, and he didn’t come down to his meal either. Again, I said Grandma I don’t think he’s hungry and Grandma said, “He will eat it when he’s ready to eat”.

She reminded me about something that I should’ve known, cats will do whatever it wants to do on their own time and not before and the Lion was nothing but a great big CAT!

I always liked to watch Grandma’s monkeys because they were so much like people without any inhibitions! 

E.g. They were always trying to grab something that didn’t belong to them.  And they spent quite a bit of time picking fleas out of their compatriot’s fur too.

One the spider monkeys was missing an arm because he tried to snatch the badgers lunch and the badger chewed it off!  That made quite a ruckus! His tail became his missing arm and he continued to bounce around in his cage with his other pals without any problem. Poor guy!

She also had a big black and white monkey whose name was Robert.  Robert loved to chatter his teeth at people and the people would chatter back which really “bugged” him.  As spectators were teasing Robert they would inevitably lean over toward him closer and closer, if they were wearing glasses, Robert would snatch them and then dangle them in front of his face as he looked back at people chattering his teeth.  He had won again! What a Con Artist!

I spent the night once at Grandma’s when I was about six years old. What I remember was just after dark, and the animals were all sleeping, the Lion started roaring because I guess they hunt at night. The other animals immediately got excited and started making all sorts of racket.  The donkey was the loudest…………….Hee-haw, hee haw! The monkey’s chattered and after about 15-minutes the Lion was again quiet and everything just settled down until he wanted to raise cane again a few minutes later.

One night my brother Don and I went down by the cages with a flashlight and watched the animals looking at us. The peacocks got excited and up went their feathers. We turned out the flashlight and what did we see? Huge animals with huge eyes looking straight at us in the moonlight! Those round things in a peacock’s feathers look exactly like giant eyes. If we didn’t what they were, we’d be scared to death. Don used the peacock’s feathers for tying flies for his fishing hobby.

Probably the funniest experience was with Grandma’s talking parrots. Uncle Harold was cleaning the cage where Grandma had 7-parrots under a big willow tree.. This was a weekly thing and Harold was very careful not to lose any of the 7-parrots by shaking their cage to drive them to the other side while he opened the door and putting them in a box while he cleaned the cage.

It was Friday now and Harold had taken the parrots out, put them into the winter quarter’s building and was picking up the newspapers in the cage.  He heard Grandma holler from the house “H-a-r-a-l-d”, so Harold runs up to the house and says, “What do you want”?  Grandma says: “I didn’t yell for you, now go back to work.”

Again Harold was cleaning the cage and again he hears “H_A_R_O_L-D”, and again runs up to the house. By now Grandma suspected that one of the parrots was not in the building so they went in and counted them.

They counted SEVEN, so they BOTH went back to the parrot’s empty cage and sure enough “H-A-R-O-L-D”- rang out again! Hmmm.

   They looked around and then heard H-A-R-O-L-D rang out from up the big willow tree towering over the parrot’s cage. Can you guess what was up in that tree?

   A crow’s nest! A big old CROW that learned how to talk from the parrot’s below!!

    Grandma immediately set about a plan to trap the Crow for her menagerie, but she never got him, crows are very smart you know!

   One last story, Grandma had a concession stand behind the house where she sold soda pop and cookies. I decided that I would play entrepreneur one weekend and bought 10-Hershey Candy Bars for 39-cents down at Joe Langer’s store.  (They usually cost a nickel a piece.)

   I figured I’d make 11-cents on the deal after I had sold all of them for 50-cents.

     But I got hungry looking at those bars and I ate one and figured I’d still make six-cents. 

   A while later I ate another one thinking I would still make one cent.

   Then another one and I got a stomach ache and lost 4-cents on the deal. My Grandma laughed and so did my Dad over my first business venture!

SPRING VALLEY MEMORIES
1948-1961

By Dean H. Blegen


   Fortunately, we don't have to watch a movie to experience the good times of the 40's and 50's, and they were good times! Looking back when everything from pop, ice cream cones, and candy bars were a nickel, the Friday night movie was 14 cents, and allowances were only a quarter, it was a great time to be young, and SV was a great place to experience all that life had to offer. We just didn't know it then, and I sincerely hope that as we reminisce tonight, we will indeed count our blessings for the wonderful memories of our youth. From swimming in the river, camping up past Tom Lamb's place or watching Roger Langer pee on an electric fence, it was all a great script for a movie, and we lived it all! Perhaps some of my memories have been magnified with time, but I doubt it. Even if they have been, what the hell, we can do that, after all this is our 40th year reunion!

 

  53 years have passed for some of these memories, and 40 years for others. If we don't put some of these memories in print, we won't have anything to talk about at our 80th reunion!

 

  I think it's time for somebody to record some of these memorable episodes, especially so the Grandchildren can read them! We are getting older, but for them we were never young! Ah, but we were, and when they read this, they'll never look at us the same way again. I hope that with a few gray hairs and a sense of humor to match, that we can all lighten up a little bit and share some of our most embarrassing moments here tonight. AND THIS WILL BE EMBARRASSING for some of us, including me, but I am the one telling the stories, and that will make all of the difference! As you listen to this, imagine that you're in 1st grade, 6th grade, or high school, and imagine how our minds and emotions functioned then. There were so many things that we didn't understand so many things that we thought were embarrassing, and so many things we just did so poorly. It's time now to revisit those things through our adult eyes and adult perspectives and see how much we’ve changed and how far we’ve come in 40+ years. Get out the hankies now for a few tears of laughter and sadness because all of these things are in the past. They are only in our memories, and we can only go from age five to eighteen once. Thank heaven for that!


Kindergarten: Mrs. Arneson: Naps, Gloria Coone fainting in front of me getting a small pox shot, me playing "Twinkle, twinkle little star on my aunt's accordion, and walking Shirley Hoyt home. The green creaky worn steps leading up to Dr. John's office and the strange smell of medicine (alcohol) half way up the stairs! The men sawing ice from the river near Zimmer's bridge and covering it with sawdust as they put it in the icehouse nearby. Hanging around Rex Eakin's depot, listening to his big railroad clock and waiting for the steam train to come in. The pungent smell of burnt coal smoke, and the dusty odor of old boxcars are still in my memory.

 

  I can still see Helmer Peterson (Chevy dealer) clucking out orders to Marcus Fuhrman (mechanic) on how to unload my Dad's new black '47 Chevy truck from a double boxcar. What I liked best about hanging around the old depot, was the feeling of the old black steam engine shaking the floor of Rex's office as it went by, and the hissing it made just before it stopped. My mother hated that old engine because it made no noises as it came down the hill from Madson's Mill, as she always seemed to have her "white" sheets drying on the clothesline behind the house............near the tracks when the train came in! But I didn't mind. And we all wondered if we were going to "pass" into 1st grade!


1st grade: Mrs. Berg: Flip, Tom, and Jane made books come alive for me! Hearing Mother yell "Rise and shine" on a cold 6:30 morning and thinking about how warm my bed felt looking at the ice-covered windows of my room. Then standing by the hot chimney to get dressed for school and smelling the oatmeal cooking on the stove. Learning the "Pledge of Allegiance". Went to my first Birthday party at Darlene Lynum's. Followed by Steve Carpenter's, Marshall Fuhrman's, Tom Lamb's, Dawn Price's, Jay Langer's, Bobbie Reid's, Mary Ann Howard's. (And of course my own.) Learned that most birthdays are in March and openly wondered why. Was it because of no air-conditioning in those days, and June of '42 was a hot month? We'll never know. Found out the difference between boys and girls in Bobbie Reid's garage! (So did Dawn Price!) Waking up to the excitement of having scores of cars in our yard with people in them during a severe thunderstorm (another SV flood) and looking across our valley during lightning flashes and seeing nothing but water,.........and wondering whether Steve Carpenter, David Wood, and Ruthie Gilbertson were OK.

2nd grade: Mrs. Helgeson/Mrs. Schilling: Listening to Marie Applegate's radio program "Let's Write", even when I didn't want to. Found out from Rose Helgeson that her mother's name rhymed with my mother's name. The stinging cold of the northwest wind coming down the old road by the depot, and recalling my eyes watering so much that they wanted to freeze shut! (I had to walk home backwards after the movies on Friday nights just to keep them open.) Discovered the sadness of a classmate dying. Remember Donald Hurtgen? He woke up three times in one night with a stomachache, the third time his dad punched him in the stomach, and Donald died of a burst appendicitis by morning! It was really sad, Donald was a good kid. I knew that my Dad would never do that to any of us. I can still see that little body in the tiny casket at Geving & Keere's and thinking that Donald sure looked small,.....and also very old. The Hurtgen family moved away a month later. Nothing happened to his dad.

 

  I learned how to play marbles, and we decided NOT to allow "steelies"! Mary Ann liked the "cat's eyes" (marbles) the most. My Grandma Jenson's zoo with all the animals and stuff. It was there that I missed my first chance at being an entrepreneur.

 

  I bought ten Hershey candy bars at Joe Langer's store for 39 cents on Saturday, on Sunday I figured that if I could sell all ten of them for a nickel, down by the lion's cage, and I would make 11 cents in one afternoon! Temptation got the best of me. I ate three of them, lost 4 cents, and got a stomachache before supper! And my Grandma just shook her head!


3rd grade: Mrs. Vandelist: Her ruler on my fingers and her "sharp dark" eyes come to mind! Rosemary Hohenstein's big nose! Joined the Cub Scouts and learned how to tie knots. Discovered how to make crystal marbles by taking them out of mother's freezer and dumping them into boiling water. Tom Lamb came down with polio and we all wondered if we would, too. We had just given our dimes to the Sister Kenny Foundation (March of Dimes) and had the image of the boy in an "iron lung" in our minds. Tom came back after Christmas and we were glad he was better, but still wondered if we would get polio, too. Experienced a foreign student coming to SV. Barbell Hatzerd from Germany  - her dad was in the German army and was killed in the war. She had very thick glasses, and she wasn't bad-looking without them, either. Barbell "slurped" (her German accent) when she talked. Her mother worked at Duffy's and always looked mad. (I guess that if I couldn't speak English I'd be mad too.) Barbell helped her mother buy groceries at Joe Langer's store. They lived in a little trailer down by George Wendtland's. The pile of junk out on our playground became a bonfire one night to celebrate a football game. There was an outhouse perched on it with a fake football player in it for a joke. After many bone-rattling falls, and aching ankles, I finally learned how to ice skate. I had to learn all over again when I got my new figure skates ("The points"?)! In the spring, Dr. Reid set-up his medical clinic by the bus barn in Art Brooke's lot. Jay and I were his "assistants", Mary Ann and some other girls were the nurses. Dr. Reid's patients were 2nd graders like Billy Howard and others. Complete examinations ensued. Looking in the mouths, saying "Ah" and then dropping of the shorts, just to make sure they were "OK"?????????????


4th grade: Miss Guyser: She knew my dad! Discovered that "goiter pills" could be eaten by the box! Chocolate milk on Fridays. Found out that Syver's "Lyceum numbers" weren't numbers at all, they were entertainment shows! Exposed to a new kind of learning: 16mm film! Viewed the Bell Lab's film "Hemo (Blood) the Magnificent" and "Time", and wondered why school couldn't all be put on film so I could learn everything much faster and with much less work! Also learned the meaning of the word "jinxed" as in Jimmy Anderson saying: "You're getting better all the time Blegen"! It seems that everytime Jimmy or I said that to eachother, we would always screw-up whatever we were doing! Like striking out at bat for example. It still works to this day, right Jimmy! Bob and Dave Richardson manufacturing a note from their mother to get a Mohawk haircut at Matt Hanson's "cigar crunching" barber shop and then playing "King for a Day"............at least until suppertime when they had to go home. Then it was over! Back down to Matt's to finish the job. Bald as a bowling ball and white as sheet and I suppose to bed early! They both had to wear a stocking cap until their hair grew back even though it was very hot. Hearing the fire siren and watching the lone '47 Ford SV fire truck go out of town toward the glowing sky of the great Madson's Mill fire and wondered how they were ever going to get it out. Dr. Fast's desktop full of pictures of his WWII days in Africa. Experienced for the first time, the pain of soft teeth and primitive dentistry in Dr.“Fast”'s office as he ground into my teeth leaving the aroma of burnt enamel over his Dentyne breathe, and suffering from his lies of "Just one more time"!


5th grade: Miss Erickson: Prettiest teacher in school and Evelyn Spence was by far the prettiest girl in High School! Taking a chocolate milkshake from Bertelson's Drug store up to Dale Raasch's house, compliments of his co-workers Walt and Bob. They both worked at the Chevy garage. (Dale had suffered terrible facial burns from an exploding shock absorber when he was welding it.) Falling in love with Dale's daughter, Sharon, but was too shy to tell her! Floyd White climbed the smelter and hung himself over the side for a joke, then just two weeks later the sound of the ambulance siren and watching it go up to Tom Lamb's farm because Floyd had just drowned at "First Rocks"….just fooling around. After visiting Dr. Hill's surgery clinic, a 6th grader we knew dropped his pants in Peggy Cook's cornfield across from our place exposing his "bright red" private parts, while the rest of us stared in wide-eyed shock and thought, "My God that must've hurt"!


6th grade: Mr. Schultz: Never learned a damn thing all year long! One hour recesses, unchecked assignments, Sharon Traynor harrumphing about NOT checking another of the few assignments that we actually did get. Jay Langer playing battleship with Mr. Schultz, Jay Langer stockpiling sunflower seeds on his desk. Jay Langer's jerry-rigged thread on the heat radiator to carry messages from the front row to the back row and he never got a patent on it! Jay Langer yelling, “Head for the rafters” and jumping up on his desk as Janet Olson upchucked an apple and a glass of milk right after dinner one day. Schultz keeping Jay Langer, Tom Lamb, and Bob Reid after school one day in May, and stating in no uncertain terms as I closed the door to leave, that they were going to flunk 6th grade "as sure as God made green apples!" I had never heard that saying before, but Schultz sounded like he meant it! Marveled at red rouge on a girl my age, (Barbara Orbeck whose parents ran the Crystal Bar). She liked to play ball with us, but I felt sorry for her because her boyfriend was in the Navy and she missed a lot of school! (Remember this was 6th Grade!) Biked out to Sharon Raasch's house to "play with Kenny" most of the summer, and started my own bicycle repair shop!


7th grade: Miss Hovde: Pronouncement that we were going to make-up for EVERYTHING we missed in 6th grade, in 7th grade..........and by golly we did! Miss Hovde's blood-shot cheeks and dark glasses on Monday mornings after the Sunday night Ellsworth dances. My dad told me she liked to go there! We started confirmation and "we" Lutherans had to memorize all of those blue phrases in that little blue book (catechism)....................and all because it was "most certainly true"! (“Most certainly true” was the suffix behind every verse, which beginning with “What does this mean”.) If I didn't have it down "cold" by Friday night at 6:45, I was NOT GOING TO THE MOVIE down at Cecil Scharbino's theatre, and no helping of Forrest Alton up in the projection room either.

 

  Read in the papers about Eddie Gein killing all those people in Plainfield, WI. I wondered if he had ever been to SV. I also wondered if anyone in SV could be like him! How would we know? David Wood jumping up and breaking a light fixture while Miss Hovde was out of our classroom. It hit Sharon Traynor on the way to the floor, and then we all waited for the sound of Miss Hovde's footsteps as she inevitably returned from lunch. David Wood growing one pubic hair. (We were all waiting to see who would have the honors!) We could only guess which girl might’ve won the contest.

  Listening to the girls in the shower room through the grate up by the library near Miss Hovde's desk. (She thought we were actually interested in reading!?) Seeing Miss Hovde's cold stare when she learned of my score on the Stanford Achievement Test while "maintaining" my steady D+/C- average. Watching the clock and praying for the bell to ring! Got into a fight with Marshall Fuhrman and learned that I was a "pissing brute" (his name for me). It was my fault completely and I still feel guilty about it. Marshall had always been my friend, and I had been a jerk to him that day. Discovered '55 Chevy's and actually graduated to 8th grade, WHEW! Good riddance, Miss Hovde!

8th grade: Miss Crowley's big nose just got smaller! She had a thyroid disorder that caused her facial features and hands to be larger than normal and had the misfortune of a botched plastic surgery on her nose during the summer. It was now very red and ragged while the rest of her face was simply “enlarged”. We all felt sorry for her and it was hard to look at her directly in the eye. She really was a very good, kind teacher. Found out the hard way that 'pneumonia' started with a 'P'! One of the girls said it was "under 'P', stupid," after Miss Crowley told me if I couldn’t spell it, I should look it up in the dictionary! What a day! Learning how to dive under our desks in case of a nuclear attack by the Russians. Grown-ups volunteered to take turns going up to the smelter and spot planes for the civil defense. I remember my mother and dad using binoculars and checking a book with pictures of planes in it for identification, then writing it on a form. I wondered what would happen if we got bombed before the mail went out! No one else ever wondered about that.

  One day in school we thought the threat was real when we heard a big boom from the third floor. We learned later from Jay, that his brother Roger Langer had just set-off a French "Time" Bomb using an M-80, a cigarette and a matchbook on a library shelf behind Suzie Eakin’s stool. He learned how to make it reading about WWII in the library, of course! And.........he was NEVER caught, because he wasn't in the library at the time......as planned! Remember the “Time” feature?

  Being asked to the Sadie Hawkins dance by Marilyn Ofstie and skipping out at the break! Jay made me do it; he skipped out on Sharon Traynor, too! Discovered '56 Chevy power packs and 100 mph runs up Keene Hill with the boys from the Chevy Garage! Telling Rex Pence for no apparent reason that some people call me "D.H.".....and he still does(?). A new diesel train started coming to SV. Waking up to a police siren and hearing that Earl Spangler had been shot by his wife, leaving 6-7 kids without parents. I saw the picture of Earl's head down at George Wendtland's and it was terrible. The Spangler kids moved to Rhinelander to live with their grandparents. And Eddie, the boy that stuttered, drowned in a lake shortly thereafter. Their mother went to a mental hospital. It was very sad, they were all good kids.

 

  Pastor Tullickson was supposed to conduct a public questioning of our confirmation class (remember all those "blue words"), and got sick just in time, and we didn't have a public questioning! What a lucky break!!!!!!! My older brother Don never got over it!


9th grade: Mrs. Benson, the 4th grade teacher downstairs was the best-looking teacher in the school. Up until now, the only "new" girl in SV was Sharon Raasch, and the other girls in SV were like "sisters" to me.
Entering High School, we were suddenly surrounded by new and interesting people of the opposite sex from the country schools. A couple of them caught my eye right away and much to my surprise my Dad and I had been driving right past both of their places on the milk route on Saturdays and I didn’t even notice them!


   In those days I hung around the Chevy and Ford garages a lot. Forrest Alton worked at the Ford garage and he also drove the night Gilman bus after our ball games. He asked me what I thought about the new girls from the country schools, so I told him about that pretty girl living out on “29”. He knew exactly who I was talking about right away and he also knew that I didn’t have a driver’s license, so he offered to let me ride his bus one Friday night after a basketball game so I could escort one of them home. That sounded like a perfect plan to me!


   To make it even better, he made sure that she was to be the LAST person to get off the bus so we could have a little “privacy”. I was so nervous and immature, but the mile between the next to last passenger and her place was enough! I can still see the bright instrument lights glancing off the bus's ceiling, and the silhouette of that very pretty girl next to me on the frosty window is something I will never forget. 


   Little did I know that Forrest was watching us in his big driver's mirror (probably re-living his own “teenage fantasies”) and then saying to me after she got off the bus, “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU MADE IT!”

   In the months that followed, that girl came out to her mailbox on Saturday’s about the time my Dad and I came by in the milk truck to wave to us, but I was too darn embarrassed to wave back because my Dad was with me. You know how it is when you're around your parents at only fifteen! He must've thought I was a real nerd, and he was right. I still feel really bad about that.

   Alas, my first imaginary love affair was about to end when a guy six years older than us entered the scene. I was shocked to find out that he was the guy that was buying the beautiful, (one of a kind) ’59 Chevy Impala Black Convertible that had just come into the Chevy garage! It sure impressed me because it had the perfect powertrain (283 power pack and overdrive). (You guys reading this will understand.)
Years later they got married and at one of our reunions, that girl kiddingly told me “I should’ve tried a little harder”.


   I’m sure there’s many a young “old” boy out there reading this that can identify with this tale, perhaps even the guy that married the best-looking girl in Gilman was just 15 once himself!

   But life moves on, and testosterone being what it is, I noticed another pretty girl from El Paso. My Dad's milk route went by her place too! I was "smitten" by her blonde hair, dirty jokes, and her "flirtatious" ways in Russell Aamodt's Science Class. But like the girl from Gilman, she lived too far away for a guy on a bicycle too and she also started dating an older guy with a car of course!

   The bottom line; at fifteen it’s much easier to be a girl than a boy, just ask me!


10th Grade: Joined the Projection Club to avoid regular school classes. After showing my first film in "Noots" (Wally Hanson) class, I couldn't understand why the darn film was upside down on the reel. There was no way that I could rewind it, according to the directions, to make the film rightside up. So…… to make sure that the film would be right-side up, I rewound it manually with my finger in the reel. When Terry Wulf tried to show the film the next hour, it was upside down on the screen! They worked on it ALL hour and finally gave up because they knew the only way to fix it was to rewind it by hand, and they knew that wasn't right......(?).......that is, until Noots looked me up and I told him what I had done! I rewound it by hand again during lunch hour with a pencil in the reel because my finger still had cuts on it from rewinding it an hour earlier the hard way!

 

  And then watching Richie Roach and Gary Roesler hang Butch Wendlandt upside-down by his ankles from the 3rd story window just to shake the change out of his pockets....while Mr. Aamodt was walking up outside of the school and catching the coins in his hand! Butch Wendtland never did tell who his tormentors were, he knew better than that!

 

  Observed Roger Langer catch on fire in the Library filling his cigarette lighter. Observed Roger Langer prove that Ron Miller was really asleep in front of Howard's station by flipping him the bird two feet from the hood ornament of Ron's car while he was in it! "See" he said, "THE S.O.B. IS SLEEPING!" To our amazement, nothing happened! Roger was right about those "new and improved" mirror sunglasses that Ron was wearing!! Coming to school and reading on the current events board that the University of Minnesota Conference was going to honor "Dean Blegen", Theodore Blegen that is. I had never heard of him, it was Mr. Ames little joke on me. "Dean Blegen" was the "Dean" of men at the U of M. My ten minutes of fame was gone! Started driving my Dad's '57 Chevy milk trucks, what an exhilarating experience for a sixteen year old, especially with the snowplow on! The last train came to SV but I was interested in cars and girls now anyway so I didn’t care!

11th Grade: Got my driver’s license and started driving my Dad’s ’57 Chevy milk trucks! That was quite a heady experience as it was in late March and we got one final snowstorm. Trucks had snowplows on them and I just loved it! Imagine being in high school and doing an adult's job! And my Dad’s trucks were soooo nice! They had V-8’s in them and could pass any “Ford” on the road! Chuckles! In fact I have a ’57 Chevy 2-ton truck right now with only 18,000 miles on it (ex-fire truck) and it too has a V-8 Power pack in it…..and a snowplow just like my Dad’s.

 

  Bought my first car because my Dad wouldn’t let me use his because he thought it would “go too fast” (it was ’57 Chevy too!). Worked two days trying to remove "Diane" from the dash board! Went through 2 engines, 3 transmissions, and 2 rear ends in 8 months! Learned a lot about how to fix cars! Got a job at Harshman's station and viewed everything that was going on in Spring Valley. From under the hood to the "backseat", Virgil had everything under control if you get my drift! (Perhaps we can devote a chapter to this at the next reunion.) Got chased out of Hastings after a fall dance that Bill Collins was sponsoring. Fifteen minutes later Jay Langer flipped the bird to four guys in a '53 Plymouth in Ellsworth that could go 5 mph faster than my '52 Chevy! Ten minutes after that, we were passed by that Plymouth at close to 100 mph and watched it spin out of control losing all of its hubcaps and landing in the ditch on Hwy 29 west of Pat Niedermeyer's house. I never wanted to go to Hastings in the first place, it was all Jay's idea. Raced with Bobby Reid, Marshall Fuhrman, Roger Zignago and lost every race! Claire Stein's "Lucky Day" was during a noon hour drag on top of Keene Hill. It was Claire's idea. At 100+ mph (I was going 92!) Claire passed me with a ready-mix truck approaching, and an old Ford loaded with feed sacks just ahead of us going VERY slowly. (A prescription for a disaster). Claire's car locked its brakes, swerved, went up on end and disappeared "ass over teakettle" down over the bank as I swished by at 70 in the dust and dirt swirling in the air. What a horrible feeling to know that two of my best friends were probably dead just because of some monkey business on the highway. We returned to find Claire and Bob Thompson scampering up the embankment unscathed. The car? Standing on all four wheels at the bottom of the ditch! The damage? A broken side mirror, grass stains on the driver's side which could all be polished off, and a flat left front tire! That was it! Who says God doesn't protect fools? Then back to Harshman's to have the car pulled out and report a "cooked-up story" to Ron Miller so we could stay out of trouble.

 

  So far so good. Then it was back to school for 5th period. Wait! The story isn't over yet! Later, after school, Claire picked up his dad's '56 Chevy Bel Air, and drove home for chores........and discovered to his great benefit, his left front wheel fell off and he "totals-out" the car! Harshman's didn't tighten the bolts on the spare tire mounted AFTER the accident! The result? Harshman's insurance company had to buy Thorburn Stein a new car and Claire never did explain his little moment of indiscretion earlier in the day! Some guys are just lucky...........real LUCKY! Was asked by Jeanette Winger from Ellsworth via Mary Ann Howard(?) to the Sadie Hawkins dance in Ellsworth. She was so darn good-looking and we had a great time but I thought she was too young for me, after all she was only a Freshman and I was a Junior! And STUPID! (She was also on my Dad's milk route!) Don Richardson introduced me to the Schoonover twins in Baldwin, (Myra and Myrna). Wow, they really liked boys...and they were only Freshmen! I was beginning to think that Burl Ives had something after all in his song: "Mister In-between"! Watching Mr. Hunter throw erasers and chalk at Jay Langer and missing. Losing my driver's license for 30 days for driving 65 at night coming back from the Barron County fair. (This was after running at 92 mph........but I was still pissed!) Bought a '55 Chevy Bel Aire powerpack! Discovered the joy of keeping the inside of one's engine clean by using "Casite" in the carburetor! Jay tried it once downtown on a Friday night. He "floored" his car right in front of the Coast to Coast store and carpeted the whole damn town under a thick layer of smoke. You could see the people on both sides of the street, but you couldn't see the street at all. As the smoke "petered-out" by Art Duberke's station, we noticed flashing red lights emerging from the cloudbank.........it was Ron! "Oh, oh bubblegum machine says Jay. When Ron asked Jay why he did such a thing, Jay said: Sorry Ron, I didn't know you were there!" No kidding. After duel points, milled heads, solid lifters, and a Corvette cam, I finally blew the engine in my '55, and it only took me from Harshman’s Station to the sewer plant 1ŕ2 mile away to do it! The guys at the Chevy garage were right after all when they warned me that a “55 engine would never take such abuse!

 

  After getting a brand new engine from Chevrolet, I raced my '55 against Bobby Reid, Marshall Fuhrman, Jay Langer, and Tom Golden and beat them all. All except for Bob Thompson's '56 Chevy powerpack. Even the new engine from Chevrolet couldn't beat him. Then I told my story to Leo Kadinger at his junkyard in Boyceville. It was then that I learned the little nuances between a '55 and '56 Chevy powerpack. Then Thompson and I were dead even, but I never did beat him! He had a good car. The lesson: Don't laugh at guys that work in junkyards, they really do know a lot of stuff about cars.


12th grade: The exhilaration of knowing that school was almost over! Taking English the second half of the year because Mr. Collins and Mr. Ames thought I should. Finding out that Ron Miller's Ford could be outrun by a '55 Chevy, or was it that Ron Miller's "mind" was just slow? The revelation that a car (Terry Wulf's '61 Chevy tri-power 348) could smoke a motorcycle from zero to 80 mph! Even a quarter taped to the dash of Terry Wulf's car at full acceleration was impossible to reach by Duane Kado! Bob Britton and I learned that the sheriff was a pretty good counselor to boys in trouble. Tom Golden's “golden” imagination in "explaining" to his Dad all the damage done to the family car every time he used it, WITHOUT it having anything to do with Tom himself!

 

  I'll never forget the midnight ride out of Baldwin in Tom’s dad’s '58 Ford Thunderbird Special chasing Campbell's 6-cylinder '56 Chevy, and the Ford ending up in a lake near Hammond. This had to be the epitome of folly, and bad driving! And it was no accident; it had to happen sooner or later. I never rode with Tom again, and his dad never let him drive that '58 Ford again either! Tom bought a '55 Ford and installed 3 deuces on it and I still beat him with my '55 Chevy! Some guys never learn! My last memory of my senior year was racing Ron Odalen and his ’57 Buick over the top of Keene Hill. We were coming toward SV and had just topped the hill. I was going 105 mph and pulled out to pass Ron as we began to descend. We both picked up speed to what I can only guess, and the next thing I knew was the bottom of the hill approaching in a flash. I never realized that the "corner" by the sewer plant was so sharp! I was still going 80 mph when I got to the bridge and I was slowing down as fast as I could! I remember thinking that if a rabbit, or a squirrel would've been anywhere along the way, it would've indeed been my last memory of SV. I never did that again, and neither did Ron. Then.....................listening to Karen Traynor's address in a hot auditorium in May and knowing the sadness that all of us would never be together again. And I grew up after that.



Harshman's Station

1956-1963

By Dean H. Blegen

   For anyone wanting a good laugh at someone else’s expense, the following tales from Harshman's Station chapters of Spring Valley History will make a good read.
    Sit back now, enjoy the misadventures of some old Spring Valley real life characters as we re-live some of those good old’ days from our common past.
    Let me dedicate this in memory of Terry Wulf who also worked at the station with me and shared in most of these “mis” adventures.

Motels & Monkey business………..
   Just after Rex Stockman built his big long red house with all the lights shining on it, Terry decided to have a little fun at Rex's expense. After we closed the station at 10:00pm, we shut down the big Pure Oil sign next to the highway. We took a big piece of white tag board and put "Rex's Motel" on it. We took out the ladder and wired up the Rex sign over the Pure Oil sign. Then we turned the lights back on. It looked just beautiful! It wasn't long before cars starting going up to Rex's place and ringing his doorbell. Well, his house did look like a motel with all the lights on.......right? Virgil thought it was funnier than heck because Rex bought most of his gas up at Carpenter's North Star station!

Rust buckets………………
Then there was the time that I got an education about American Motors Ramblers, unibody and rust. Somebody that owned one came into the station to get an oil change and grease job. Terry and I looked under the car to put the hoist pads under the frame, but there was no frame! (unibody) So I put the pads where "I thought" they should be. Terry turned on the air to raise the car up. The hoist pads came up to meet the car and the next thing that's supposed to happen, is the car should rise on the hoist. Well it didn't..................the seats inside of the car started moving up instead! I yelled "Stop the hoist!" Terry let the hoist back down along with the seats, and we greased the darn thing lying on the floor! We honestly didn't know whether the seats were going to fall through the floor when the guy got back in it or not! They didn't, but I decided right then and there that we were never going to ride in an American Motors product...............especially if it had rust on it!

Goin’ fishing……………
   Remember Frankie Erb? He had an older brother Donnie. He had a little foreign car, something like a DKW. It was very small when cars weren't small so I remember it well. One night we had one of those familiar thunderstorms and high water that SV was noted for before the dam was built, remember? Anyway, Donnie, for some unknown reason was bent on driving around looking for high water to drive through. He went up the river by Longsett's where he grew up. Remember that low cement bridge that goes across the river just past Longsett’s? I think they call that part of the river Second Rocks; it's all covered by water now anyway. Back to the story............Donnie evidently wanted to watch the river rise, so he drove his little car up onto the cement bridge and just sat there in the middle of the storm. You have to understand that the cement bridge had low approaches on both ends to allow for the river to go around it. That way it wouldn't be washed out like the one just above it that caused the big flood in '42.
   So there sits Donnie alone, watching the river rise over BOTH ends of the bridge while he sits on the higher middle part! I guess he thought that the river was only going to get so high, then stop rising. You know what happened next, don’t you? .........The river covered the whole darn bridge and came in under his car doors! Donnie was scared! @#%less and proceeded to walk through the rushing water, down off the bridge, into deeper water to get back up to the road. And of course he made it or you would’ve read about his untimely demise back in 1961!
   An hour later he had walked 4 miles in a blinding thunderstorm to came into Harshman’s station breathless and of course wringing wet , insisting that I take the wrecker up the river and get his car off the bridge before it showed up under the bridge outside of Harshman’s station.
I couldn't quite understand what he was trying to explain, I mean why would anyone drive up on a bridge that might get flooded and then get trapped there?
   Well, I just worked at the station; I didn’t cause the episodes to occur. So off we went up to Longsett’s bridge and as we crested the hill near the bridge, we could barely see through the heavy downpour and lightning, the top half of a car sitting in the middle of what looked like a moving lake.
   He said: "There it is, how are YOU going to get it out!" I said: "Me" get it out? You're the one that's going to hook the cable to your car!" You couldn't see the door handles on the car, let alone the bumper!
And besides he was already wet anyway. So I began to let out the slow-moving cable with Donnie pulling on it toward the car about 400 feet away. I thought I was going to have to wench him back in if he lost his footing as the water was moving fast, and by now up to his chest as he approached the bridge. Anyway, he made it and got the car attached to the wrecker cable after dunking himself under water a few times. I didn't know how well he had hooked it up, but I didn't really care as it was such a dumb stunt to begin with. The funniest part of the whole deal was after he got back to the wrecker by following the cable. We started winching the car off the high point of the bridge back toward the lower approach, and the water got deeper. You already know what happened next don't you? The darn car started floating and it took off down the river!
   But not to worry..........the cable was still attached and I just kept "reeling it in" with the wrecker winch. We finally got the car out of the drink and, naturally, Donnie wanted to see if it would start. It didn't of course, so we hauled it back to the station for an overnight drying out. He eventually drove the car again, but I'll never forget what it was like "to catch a really big one!"

Wanna bet……………?
   Around the winter of 1961-2, Ornie Moore was tipping a few in one of SV’s local watering holes when the subject of "time-tests" for driving to Elmwood came up. I believe Jimmy Stein held the record of around 6 minutes from the turn-off from 29 to the stop sign in Elmwood. Ornie had just bought a very nice black '54 Ford 2-door hardtop. In the discussion of whether anyone could beat Jimmy Stein's record, Ornie said he thought he could do it. In fact he said he could drive on the river! Well, you can imagine where that went. "Nobody can drive to Elmwood on the river!" exclaimed one of the bar patrons. "Well you're looking at the man that can do it!" said Ornie. "I'll bet you $20 bucks that you can't", said another. You're on said Ornie, and away he went down to Pete Hanson's bridge to “ford” the river with his Ford. He made it about 300 feet and went through the ice on the shallow ripples and there he sat! I don't know how he got home but I'm sure he had plenty of spectators watching over him. The next day I went to work at Harshman's and learned the whole story. It was my job to go down and pull him out because nobody else wanted to do it - and it WAS DARN COLD. The wrecker had a very slow wench on it and it took about 15 minutes in the 20 below zero weather to get the cable out 300 feet. I made Ornie get down on his own hands and knees to attach the hook to a good place on his car in the river. After sitting in the wrecker (the only place that it was warm!) for about 20 minutes, the car was finally up on the road. Ornie got in and found out that it wouldn't move. The wheels of course were frozen solid from being in the river! Not to worry, we pulled it back to the station on 29 sliding and squealing all the way on the bare pavement. We finally unhooked the car in front of the station and then pushed it in for a good thawing-out. Later Sunday afternoon, Ornie came in to get his car to drive home. He was back in 2 minutes complaining that the car was "thumping". It turned out that all four of his nearly new tires had one "flat" side to them! And he didn't even win the $20!
   But that wasn't the end to Ornie's $20 bets. Later that same year, Ornie traded in his '54 Ford for a dark blue '57 Chevy Bel Aire. It had the new and improved Turbo glide Transmission in it. Terry Wulf was the first to comment on that part of the car when Ornie brought it in for a fill-up. Terry said that the Turboglide transmission was built with a special feature. He said that if you accidently put the car in reverse over 10 miles an hour, it wouldn't go into reverse! It was a safety feature he claimed. None of us ever heard of such a thing, but Ornie wasn’t persuaded. So he bet Terry that it didn't work that way. Off they went up Keene hill to check it out. Down they came at 70 miles an hour. Ornie must have figured the faster he was going, the better the "safely system" would work. BANG! It didn't work!
   There was automatic transmission fluid spread 200 feet in the downhill lane. The stain was there for years and those of us that knew about it always laughed every time we went over it. I remember Bob Dahlman down at the Chevy garage looking at the transmission sitting on the bench after it was removed from the car and openly wondered how anyone could actually split the top of the transmission open by 2 inches! When I told him what had happened, Bob, Dale Raasch and Walt Henkle cracked up. They really cracked up when I told them that Ornie had won the bet!

Driveshafts & hand grenades……………..
   Leo DeGross bought a brand-new '56 black and red Pontiac Star Chief. That means that it had the biggest engine Pontiac made that year with the short body, or essentially a hotrod. It was much hotter than Leo’s brother Jerry's (the village cop) '55 Super Chief as that only had a 2-barrel carburetor. Anyway Leo noticed a "click" in his rear end and wanted Terry Wulf to put it up on the hoist in Harshman's station. Remember Harshman’s new-fangled hoist with movable pads, which let the rear axle hang down. Anyway, Terry checks out the differential and finds nothing apparently wrong. So Leo gets a stepladder and gets up into the car and proceeds to start it up. He puts it in gear and lets the rear wheels turn about 10 mph, still no clicking. Terry says "faster" and Leo stomps on the gas and runs the speedometer past the end (120+). The rear tires ballooned out and all of a sudden there was one heckuva noise with pieces of metal flying all over the place. Breaking the windows on the east side of the station and making holes in the cinder block (the dents are still there by the ladder going up to the loft) on the other side! Leo slams on the brakes but it did no good. His drive shaft had come off his differential! The angle created by the wheels hanging down caused the rear U-joint to break! The drive shaft had disintegrated like a hand grenade as it spun uncontrollably with pieces flying in all directions!
   There were at least five people standing around the hoist when this all took place and one of them was Jay Langer, and nobody was hit with anything! And you think God doesn’t protect fools? He does! Leo's car stood outside Harshman's station for 3 weeks because Bob Hannack, the Pontiac dealer, couldn't get a new drive shaft for Leo's car as it was "too new" and Pontiac hadn't gotten around to stocking parts yet that seldom wear out!

The Big Bang……………!
   Did I ever tell you the one about Terry and I wondering about how big a "rubber" (they're called condom now) could be blown up, before it would break? Well we tried it, and discovered to our surprise that it was about 4-5 feet across! Leaving no possibilities or opportunities unchecked, we decided to fill up one with pure oxygen from Virgil's torch. After filling it to a “safe” diameter of about 3 feet, we put in a "pinch" of acetylene gas just to make it interesting. Now that’s an explosive combination and both Terry and I knew it! We also knew that we couldn’t be standing next to it when it went off or we would at least lose our eardrums. So we tested a number of fuses to allow us to vacate whatever premises that we were going to plant this thing on. The best solution was a common string soaked in kerosene and then dried for about an hour. It burned about one foot in 10 seconds. So we made a 5-foot fuse. To remain unnoticed, I proceeded to walk our would-be prank next to Terry’s moving car out near the bridge by the station, and then deposit it on the flat part right under the west end of the bridge. We then ran the fuse down the angled part of the bridge toward the river, which was a BIG mistake, and lit it. Holy balls Terry said, “the @#$% thing is taking off!”! We didn't figure on the fuse to burn so fast, as it was burning up hill now! We didn't want to lose our eardrums so we took off as fast as we could. Our plan was to get back to the station office BEFORE it blew, but it was not to be.
   We just barely made the grade beside the bridge when the contents of the condom “went off”. KAAABOOOOOOOM! It sounded like Sonny Brook's sonic boom heard years before when he buzzed SV with his jet plane. I told Terry to stop running and look up in the air, while I pointed to the sky. Everyone came out of their houses to look in the direction of the big bang by the bridge. All they saw was Terry and I standing by the bridge pointing and looking up. Everybody looked up and then yelled to us: “Did you see anything?” We said: “No….but whatever it was sure made a lot of noise!” The bottom line was that we got by with it! Geez…….what a work of art! Later we went under the bridge to inspect what we thought might be damaged. To our relief there wasn’t any! Terry said he didn't think rubbers were made for that kind of abuse, and I agreed.

False Alarms & College Educations………………..
   One very cold night in January a nurse called the station from the nursing home. She couldn't get her car started and needed a "push" (we did that in the old days to get cars started remember?). I was working alone and asked a patron to watch the station for "just a minute" while I quickly tooled out to the nursing home. I got in the cold wrecker (Rex Nord's old dilapidated made-over oil truck) and proceeded to back it away from the side of the station. It didn't have any gas in it............it never had any gas in it, so I pulled up next to the gas pumps. The tank was on the passenger side under the wrecker body. It was too darn cold to stand there while the gas was going in, so I went back into the station where it was warm. A couple of minutes later I was going back out to take the gas hose out of the wrecker, when the phone rang. It was the nurse wondering where I was, which got my mind off from what I was doing. After getting off the phone, I immediately ran out the door, jumped into the wrecker, and drove out to the nursing home. When I got out there, I heard the fire siren go off in the darkness and wondered where the fire was, and how hard it would be to fight it on such a cold night.
   About ten minutes later, I drove back to the station and the whole darn place was crawling with fireman, and the cop was there too. When I got out of the wrecker the smell of raw gasoline permeated the air! Virgil Harshman (the fire chief) asked me what I was learning at college......?............it then dawned on me that I had driven away from the gas pump with the hose still in the truck! And the hose was STILL in the truck now! The firemen washed down the place and the smell disappeared by morning. I darn near lost my job over that one. And I would've except Virgil himself had returned from Spring Lake not long before that with the wench in gear on the back of the same wrecker and jammed it into the boom so hard that we had to use the cutting torch to get it out. But he was the boss, and that makes all the difference you know.

The Duke of “Hazzards”…………………
   Here’s another Harshman tale: As I said to you before, Jimmy Stein held the “highway” speed record for the trip to Elmwood. And that's saying a lot, considering he was driving a Chevy stove bolt six with a power slip (powerglide) transmission! However his driving ability was the great equalizer! He may have held the speed records for other locations too, I just can't say. Anyway, one hot summer, the road builders were working on three bridges on 29 between Pumpkin Center and Menomonie, actually the bridges were gone completely and the roads were closed! Barricades were up on 29 and nobody was supposed to be on that part of 29 unless you lived there. But at 17 fear is something that doesn’t exist and it certainly didn't deter Jimmy from using that part of the highway. He moved the barricades and proceeded to discover why the road was closed. After all, inquiring minds needed to know. Jimmy and his carload of merrymakers approached the first missing bridge. After closer examination, Jimmy decided that the open space between the west end of the missing bridge wasn't that far from the east end of the bridge. So………………. they removed the barricades from both sides of the gulf, and backed up about a 1/2 mile. They managed to get about 70 mph under their belts before "bridging" the gap. It worked! Then they came upon another missing bridge. Same distance, same stunt! But then they came to a third bridge, now this opening was a good deal further across to the other side. So what does Jimmy do? Why…….back up a little further, and get more momentum! I don't know how fast they were going when they tried to jump that last gap, but it was fast enough to make it..............minus their gas tank! That landed in the creek under the bridge when the rear of the car came down with a thud! I have always wondered why there wasn't a fire. When the familiar call came for a wrecker, we had to drive to Menomonie via I-94 to get to Jimmy's car. We hauled it back to Harshman's and parked it beside the station. Jimmy didn't have any money to fix it right away. One of the funniest things was that Jimmy's dad, Conrad, never found out what happened. In fact when he bought gas for his pick-up, he commented to us that he thought Jimmy must have been broke, as Jimmy's car (it was actually Conrad's car but he never was allowed to drive it) had been sitting beside the station for several weeks. Little did he know that not only did Jimmy not have money to buy gas, he didn't even have a gas tank to put it into!

How to start a car the hard way……….
   Here's another funny story. One time Jay Langer couldn't get his car started. It was in the middle of summer and Jerry Mattison (Mort) was in Jay's mother's bar (Lorraine's). So Jerry says: "I'll give you a push Jay!" Remember in those days you could do that with automatics.................if you got over 35 miles and hour and dropped the car in low gear, it would start. Now there's one more part to the story.............Jay's car was a 6-banger and Jerry's was a Chevy power pack..............quite a difference. Anyway Jerry started pushing Jay up from town at about 20 mph. Jay kept motioning for Jerry to speed up (remember you have to get to 35 mph or nothing happens with an automatic). Anyway they get to the stop sign in front of the station on 29. They go left toward Keene Hill. Jerry stays under 25 mph deliberately so Jay's car wouldn't start. Jay is waving frantically out the window to go faster, as if Jerry didn't know what he was doing. Jerry is just poking along and ignoring him……….on purpose!
   They get the bottom of Keene Hill and Jerry finally pours the coals to his power pack. Up past 40.............Jay's car starts...............up past 50..............Jay is now trying to wave him off..................up past 60.............Jay is getting frantic.................past 70........past 80............finally Jerry backs off just where there's a gravel road off to the right near the top of the hill. Both cars pull off at the top of the hill. Jay, still pale from his hair-raising push up the hill, says to Jerry: "Didn't you know that I got my car started at the bottom of the hill?" Jerry said: "Sure I did!"
   Jay said: "Well why didn't you back off then?"
   Jerry said: "I just wanted you to have the experience of driving that 6 cylinder up the hill over 80 mph!"
I thought that was a very dangerous stunt at the time but there was alcohol involved and that made all of the difference. It sure was funny at the time though. And Jerry was right; Jay never had gone up Keene Hill that fast before in his '55 Chevy. Mine yes, but his no.

Hello? Anybody there?

  One of the most controversial characters that patronized Harshman’s Station was Dean Madson. He had just gotten his driver’s license and thoroughly enjoyed “sliding” in the station with his dad’s ’61 black Chevy with all four wheels looked-up and ripping off the rubber hose that triggered the bell inside the station that alerted us in the back room that somebody was out by the gas pumps.
   One evening around 7:00pm Dean swerved into the station and promptly set himself down by the desk and asked if he could use the telephone. I said “Of course, but it had to be local”.
While Dean was dialing the telephone, I slipped into the backroom and lifted the receiver off the hook to hear the number that Dean was calling ringing in my ear.
   I said: “Hello!” Dean said: “Duane (Jacobson), is that you?” I said “yes” while the phone was still ringing in the background. Then Dean says: “Duane, this is Dean Madson and I need some developing fluid”. (Yes, Dean took pictures back then too.) I said, “Yes…………how much do you want?” (The phone was still ringing in the background.)
   Just then the real Duane Jacobson answered the phone and I shut up in the back room.
   Duane says: “Hello”……………silence, then “Hello” again, silence, “HELLO!” Dean says: “Hello”, then silence. Duane then says: “Who the hell is this?” Dean says: “I just told you!” Then Duane says: “You haven’t told me anything! What do you want?” “I just told you I wanted some developing fluid, do you have some?”
Duane says: Yes, when do you want it?” “Right now” says Dean. “Ok, come on up then” says Duane.

  I was laughing so hard by the time that Dean hung up the phone and I came back into the office that I had a sore stomach. Dean said: “What are you laughing at?” I said: “Do you know who you were just talking to on the phone?” Dean says: “Yeah, Duane Jacobson!” I said: “NO IT WAS ME!”
   Dean says: “You mean I never talked to him at all?” (This is where it really gets funny!)
   I said: “No you didn’t, you were talking to me all of the time!” Dean called me an *sshole and started dialing the phone again. I slipped back into the backroom and picked up the phone just in time to hear Duane Jacobson answer the phone. “Hello” he says. Dean says: Duane, this is Dean Madson and I was just wondering if I could get some developing fluid from you tonight?” Silence…………..Duane says: “Dean,……you just called me a minute ago and we just talked about this”. Dean says: “We did?” (I’m splitting a gut in the backroom trying to be as quiet as possible.)
   Duane says: “Yes we did, don’t you remember?” Dean says: “Well I thought we did, but I wasn’t sure”.    

  “Well come up and get your fluid!” says Duane and that was it, the phone call was over.
   I walked back into the office and said to Dean: “Do you know who you talking to that time?” Dean says: It sure as hell wasn’t you Blegen, it was Duane Jacobson!” And I agreed of course. Dean hops into his dad’s ’61 Chevy with his straight stick V-8 and rips-off the bell hose again from the station wall and disappears uptown.
   The phone rings, I answer it and the caller says: “This is Duane Jacobson, is this Harshman’s station?” I said: “Yes it is.” Did Dean Madson just make a call from there a couple of minutes ago?” I said: “Yeah, he did!” Did he seem normal to you? I mean was he drinking or something?” I said: “No, he seemed normal to me!” By now I had tears running down my cheeks! I had finally gotten the best of Dean Madson after all of those times that he ripped off my hose outside!!!

Windshield Washers & Portable Bars……….?

  One of the funniest and no doubt most creative stunts that I ever witnessed at Harshman’s was from a guy that had a number of drunken driving tickets, including driving with an open bottle in his car.
   Here’s what happened. Terry Wulf and I were supposed to service his car. We noticed that the windshield was completely smeared with bug guts to the point that it would’ve been nearly impossible to see through the windshield at night in oncoming headlights.
   We decided to service it first as we knew that the windshield washer fluid must’ve been empty. However upon closer examination, we were surprised that the windshield washer bottle was indeed full of water….or so we thought!
   Terry got into the car, started it up and proceeded to press the washer button so we could fix the problem.
   Of course the wipers began to move left to right, left to right etc, but NO WASHER FLUID was coming out of the nozzles by the windshield.
   Terry hit the button again and again and nothing happened, except a strong odor of Vodka began permeating the inside of the car. We also noticed that the ashtray began dripping “water”.
   Sure enough, the washer hoses had been detoured to inside of the car and were now inside of the ash tray with a little clip on the end of the hose that wasn’t holding the “water” under pressure.
   We were wondering why the car was full of little Dixie Cups on the back seat floor, now we knew and we also knew why the windshield had so many bugs wiped all over it. The “water” was pure Vodka!!!!!!
   When I reminded him of this 40-years later, and after he had quit drinking for good, he laughed, said he didn’t remember it but thought it might be something that he would’ve done!


They don’t call them “Wreckers” for nothing!

  One time Virgil had a wrecker call from down by Seven Pines and was returning back to the station in his old dilapidated ’47 Chevy wrecker. (It was Rex Nord’s old oil truck). Terry and I noticed that as Virgil was rounding the bend by the sewer plant, the wrecker seemed to slow down and finally it stopped just short of the bridge and could go no further. We could hear the motor racing, gears grinding and finally Virgil getting out of the truck swearing a blue streak.
   He had left the power take-off that ran the wrecker boom engaged and as he was driving back toward the station, the cable was being wound up on the spool in the back. When the hook at the end of the cable found itself wedged in the boom of the wrecker tower, everything came to a grinding halt and the tension on the drive train would not allow Virgil to release anything, so he was stuck on the Highway 29 bridge right next to the station and it was darn embarrassing! We had to roll the torch out to the wrecker to cut the cable and then cut the hook out of the pulley on the tower. Virgil was really mad and he keeps looking at Terry and me saying: “DON’T YOU GUYS EVER DO THAT AGAIN!” (We didn’t do anything, but we knew it was time to keep our mouths shut AGAIN!!)

What would Daddy say?

  Being a rather innocent boy of just 15 when I first started working for Virgil, there were many “grown-up” things I did not know about. One was what a “safe” was. (Yes they’re called condoms now, but Virgil called them “safes”.) He bought them from a guy in Elmwood that sold him air fresheners and other knick knacks. They came in a box of 144 and looked like “gold dollars”; in fact I think their brand name was “Gold Dollars”. Anyway they were in the bottom drawer of the desk and Virgil said that we should charge 50-cents apiece for them and ring them up as “Nuts & Bolts”.
   One night as Virgil was leaving and I was just reporting for work, a fellow classmate came in and whispers something in Virgil’s ear. The classmate obviously wanted to be discreet and not let anyone know what he was up to, especially his girlfriend that was sitting in the middle of the front seat of his ’55 Chevy. In fact she was looking straight ahead and not having any idea what her date was up to, let alone that others like Virgil and myself knew too.
   As Virgil skillfully slipped a “nut & bolt” out of the bottom drawer and traded it for 4-bits, he said to John, “Oh what would your Daddy say if he could see you now?” Indeed, what would his girlfriend say?!!!!

Looking for trouble?

  Spring Valley had it shares of colorful cops and some were not quite on the up and up. One night after my Dad bought Harshman’s Station, my brother Douglas and my Dad were sitting in the office around dusk when one of SV’s finest came roaring up to highway 29 with his flashing red lights on and of course ran the stop sign while being in “hot pursuit” of something west of town. A couple of minutes later, the same cop car was slinking down the alley behind Mert Ducklow’s house with lights out and parked behind some pine trees almost right across from the station near the stop sign that he had just ran through. My dad, who was on the Village Board asked Douglas: “Didn’t that cop just go out of town with his red lights on and now he’s behind that pine tree over they by the stop sign?” Doug said: “Yeah it was, but he does that every once in a while”. My Dad said: What the hell for?” Doug said: “Well he’s waiting for somebody to run that stop sign over there thinking that the cop is out of town and they want to see where he’s going!” My dad says: “You mean the stop sign that he just run himself?” “Yes!” says Doug.
   “Well we’ll see about that!” says my Dad as he heads for the wrecker. The next thing Dad is driving out of town toward the nursing home retracing the cop’s path down the alley and into the back bumper of the cop. He gets out and raps on the cop’s window. “Just what the hell do you think you’re up to?” is what we heard in the darkness. Of course the cop denied it, but it he said he wouldn’t do it again. It was no use, he had been caught red-handed. My Dad got back into the wrecker, then got back out again, and walked back to the cop a second time. “And another thing, I don’t you picking on any of my boys because of this either!” “Oh, no Henry, I wouldn’t do that!’ And that was the end of it and as near as I remember, I don’t think that cop was ever a cop again.

Dean Madson Redux

  Next to Jimmy Stein, Dean Madson probably held the record for driving to Elmwood in record time. I can’t remember what their best times were but I’m thinking about 7-minutes, and that was BEFORE they changed the road going around the south side of the cemetary near the Spring Lake Chucrh. The only difference was Jimmy was handicapped by a six-cylinder Chevy with a Powerglide (automatic transmission) and Dean had the luxury of a V-8 with a “staright stick” transmission. The great equalizer was Jimmy Stein’s fearless disposition.
   When Dean’s dad traded in the old ’61 Chevy for a ’65 Chevy, Dean had to test the new car against the old one for the best time “flying” to Elmwood. Now the following is NOT an embellishment, it actually happened.
   Dean slid into the station again unhooking the hose for the bell for the “umpteenth” time and announced he was going to break his old record because his dad’s new car had 25 more horsepower that the old one. (25 is exactly right BTW).
   Off he went alone in his car and returned about half hour later. Only this time he wheeled the car into the wash bay on the farthest side of the station toward the river. (I.e. He didn’t unhook the hose for the bell this time.)
   He came rushing into the office and said: “Hey Blegen, do you have your buffer (car polisher) here? I did, and asked why. He said that he had gotten too far off the road on the curve down by Thorburn Stein’s place and brushed up against the white guard rails. ’65 Chevies had very flat sides and were conducive to light scratches. I went out to look at Dean’s damages and couldn’t believe my eyes. There were white scratches on Dean’s right rear quarter panel alright but it appeared that they were very light and actually did not really scratch the car at all. So I took out my buffer and literally polished the white paint off the car and that was it! Dean had escaped the wrath of his actions again.

Bumper to bumber, butt to butt, slow down you crazy nut!

  The year was 1956 and one-legged Johnny Glumski from Martell was driving up Keene Hill with a car load of merrymakers in his 1951 Chevy PowerGlide (automatic transmission) . He had only one leg and could not drive a staright stick and PowerGlides were very weak passing cars, especially uphill.
   Nonetheless as he whisked up the hill, he pulled out to pass another car as another car was coming down the hill in his lane.
   Being very short on power, he was rapidly running out of room, and at the very last minute instead of pulling back into his own lane, he cut-off the car that he was passing and pulled back into the right lane. It was just in the nick of time as the approaching car narrowly missed him as it headed off onto the shoulder. At the very moment that both cars swished past each other, Johnny’s passengers heard a “ping” instead of the expected crash that should’ve occurred. The next day, everybody was talking about it at school and so we examined Johnny’s car for possible damages and noticed that the ONLY thing that appeared to be amiss was the left rear bumber bolt was skinned off by about a 1/16 of an inch. (Chevy’s had wrap around bumpers with a single round-headed bumper bolt on each side of the car.) Could the skinned-up bolt be the cause of the “ping” everybody heard the night before?
   Later that day a young tall fellow about 25-years of age from around the Hatchville area came into the Chevrolet garage for a grease job. I cannot recall the guy’s name but I can see him in my mind. I remember he owned a two tone blue ’54 Chevrolet Bel Air. I remember the car because the guy was sorry he didn’t wait a few more months and get the totally new ’55 Chevrolet with a V-8.
   Anyway as Bob Dahlman was greasing the car on the hoist the guy was telling about a hair-raising experience that he had had the night before coming down Keene Hill toward Spring Valley. It seemed that he was just minding his own business when he met a maniac in his lane passing a car going up the hill! As he swerved into the shallow ditch to avoid a head-on crash, he heard a “ping” as the other car went by in what was the closest thing to a crash that this guy had ever experienced.
   Upon closer examination, guess what Bob Dahlman noticed on the driver’s side of the car? The round-headed bumper bolt on the driver’s side had about 1/16” of an inch sheared off from its top! That’s right, both cars were Chevys and both had bumpers at exactly the same height and had exactly  the same kind of round-headed bolts.
   Neither one of these guys ever knew who the other one was. I believe Johnny has passed on, but I’m wondering if the other guy is still with us. He would be about 78-82 by now. Perhaps someone reading this 55-years later might shed some light on this mystery.


Spring Valley Law Enforcement

Written by Dean Blegen and edited by Karen Traynor

As with any small town in America, everybody knew everybody

and that included the cops!

Some knew them better than others and for good reason, and some for other reasons!? Enjoy……

  Once upon a time in a quiet place, in a little town in Wisconsin called Spring Valley, there was a police force of just one individual. We called this person The Cop on the beat. The first one I can remember is Pete Hanson, a thoroughly nice man devoted to keeping the citizens of Spring Valley safe.

  The second cop in Spring Valley was actually named Bert Safe, predestined to keep us safe. About the same time, we had a doctor whose last name was Doctor – Dr. Doctor, and we also had a dentist who slowly ground away on our teeth by the name of Dr. Fast.

  Bert Safe got very little sleep as he also owned Bert’s Café which opened every morning about 6:00 A.M. That meant Bert had to be there by 5:00 to fire up his grill even though he worked until 1:00 A.M. as the village cop. Because Bert was the cop, he always had stories to tell the next morning over breakfast between frying eggs and running back and forth to and from his kitchen.

  His restaurant was a menagerie of fascinating people. There was Belle Traynor, the waitress who was hard of hearing and always nervous. One customer, Edwin Iverson who worked at Floyd Helgeson’s Trucking firm, always inquired about the latest gossip and spread plenty of it himself. Johnny Longsett worked at Madson’s Mill and walked four miles one way to work with a gunny sack over his back with his lunch in it. My Dad and I always greeted him with a “Good Morning, Johnny” and he always answered “Yeah, nice day” even if it was pouring rain or howling snow outside. Johnny had but six teeth in his entire mouth and every time he chewed something, he had to swing his jaw in different directions to break down whatever he was eating.

  One morning Bert had a story about Otto Siegert – we all called him Ott. Bert was an unusually good storyteller and many of them involved Ott, an easy target, since he'd do almost anything for a beer. Bert said that Ott had nearly died a few hours earlier at the Crystal Bar. Bert then disappeared back into the kitchen leaving all of us, especially Edwin, wondering what had happened. When Bert appeared again, he said that Ott nearly choked to death. Then Bert disappeared back into the kitchen. By now everyone had stopped eating and was waiting for Bert to reappear with the rest of the story. When he came back from the kitchen, he described Ott as turning blue. He said he called Dr. Doctor to come down to the bar right away. “Oh, it was nip and tuck,” he said as he again disappeared into the kitchen. Belle even stopped serving and wondered what had happened. When Bert came back, he said that there was alcohol involved and gave no more details.

  My Dad started smiling about now as the other patrons were going absolutely crazy to hear the rest of the story, including whether poor Ott was still among the living. When Bert reappeared, he said that Art Anderson bet Ott that he couldn’t put a cue ball in his mouth for a beer, and then Bert disappeared back into the kitchen yet again. About now my Dad was absolutely hysterical with laughter and Edwin was admonishing him for something that "was no laughing matter."

  It didn’t make any difference; my Dad couldn’t stop laughing, and then I knew something was afoot. When Bert reappeared for the last time, Edwin, with his eggs now getting cold, asked again what had happened and whether Ott was still alive. He said, “Well I had to take drastic action to save Ott’s life!”
Johnny said: “What did you do Bert?”
   “I just took a cue stick and shoved right it up Otto’s butt and the cue ball just popped right out of his mouth!”
   That was it – a put-up deal just to get Edwin, Johnny and even Belle worked up over absolutely nothing, and it worked beautifully.

  My Dad knew Bert well and on many occasions Bert deputized him to break up fights in the bars on weekends among motorcycle gangs from the twin cities. Being a milk hauler and a former baseball pitcher, my Dad was very strong and quick. He was also very perceptive and Bert surely enjoyed my Dad chuckling over his pranks while everyone else was being taken in by them.

  The next cop was Jerry Degross who was very young, a nice guy and a friend of Bob Gavic who was the Village Attorney at the time. Jerry couldn’t resist a little fun. He did two things that I remember well and the second one got him fired. The year was 1955. First, he wanted to see what it was like to hit 100 mph driving down main street in Spring Valley. Just after midnight, he went up to the north end of town near where the dam is now, turned on his red lights and siren and off he went. I don’t know if he got to 100 mph or not, but he woke up nearly everyone in town. If it hadn't been for Bob Gavic, who recommended his hiring, there wouldn’t have been a second chance.

  The second chance occurred soon afterward when Jerry was drinking on duty in Bill’s Bar. He shot at a picture behind the bar of a man standing on a bridge with his .38 pistol. Then the bartender, Earl Danielson (Jimmy’s brother) took a few shots at it too. That was it: the second chance went up in gunsmoke and the next day Jerry was gone.

  Roy Traynor took up the job next with his fantastically fast “Power-pack,” stick ’57 Chevy 150. It was equipped exactly like the Chevys that were winning at NASCAR at the time. I really loved polishing his car because I could drive it out to Madson’s Mill and back to dry it off before polishing it. It was very fast and even faster after I polished it according to Roy. Roy and the Justice of the Peace at the time gained a reputation with AAA as having a speed trap on highway 29. From Harshman’s Station we could see him driving without his lights on to catch unsuspecting speeders leaving town down by the St. John’s Chuch. Cops in those days clocked speeders with a large speedometer mounted on the dash of their police cruisers. (Radar had not made its debut onto the small town scene just yet.) There was also an issue at Harshman’s station about Roy having the keys to the station and selling gas after hours.

  About this same time, there was a cop from St. Croix County by the name of Van Rance that liked to break up beer parties that his daughter informed him about, even though she attended them herself. He would always mysteriously show up and ticket the attendees for under-age drinking. I never went to those parties, but I heard about them from Roger Zignego. St. Croix County had the hottest cop cars in those days; they had Tri-Power Pontiacs, and excellent drivers and they always got their man.

  After Roy Traynor, the cop was 23-year old Ron Miller and I remember him best because I had just bought my hot ’55 Chevy and he was constantly chasing us kids. One of the dumbest things I ever did shortly after turning 18, happened one night as I was leaving Harshman’s Station. I churned a little bit of gravel and made a little “burp” with my left rear wheel as it hit the blacktop. Ron Miller was sitting right next to the station and I knew it. He immediately stopped me for squealing my tire. He knew that I had lost my license a few months before for speeding in Dunn County when I was under 18 years old. When he asked me if I wanted to lose my license again, I said the dumbest thing in my life: “No sweat Ron, I’m 18 now." If you’re thinking I got another ticket, you’d be right.

  It seemed like just about every week Ron had his car in the Ford Garage for some kind of body repairs like broken headlights or new grilles from car chases the night before in which he frequently ran off the road. One of those chases was mine, but he never caught me. It was down by 7-Pines going up the Lem Wells' Valley toward Fred Larson’s farm. When the chase started, I did not know it was Ron or I wouldn’t have done it. I thought it was just another local yokel trying to catch me. By the time that I could make out the flashing red lights in Ron’s grille hidden by the dust between us, my heart sank as I had already broken several traffic laws and I was now “in it." Fortunately I had a pretty hot car and I knew the road well. Because it was night I could slide around the corners as I could tell if I was meeting anyone just around the curve.

  My conscience has bothered me ever since. I looked Ron up a couple of years ago, at the Ellsworth Police station to apologize to him. He just laughed and said, “Forget it!” He said that when he interviewed for the Spring Valley job, that he gave the village board the “biggest line of bull” that he ever gave anyone. As I said, he was 23 and I was just 18, so I guess we both had some growing up to do.

  About this same time, when Ron wasn’t on duty we had another part-time cop that liked to run the stop sign on 29 by Harshman’s station (now our station), and then barrel out towards the nursing home not chasing anyone. One night my dad noticed this little stunt and he said to my brother Doug: “I wonder where that cop was going.”
   Doug said, “Just watch, he’ll be coming back down the alley with his lights out and park behind those pine trees over there by the stop sign".
   “Why would he do that?" dad asked.
   Doug told him about the scam that the cop was running of ticketing the next driver running the same stop sign! My Dad, being on the Village Board was keenly interested in this and said: “Well we’ll see about that!” He jumped into our wrecker, retraced the cop's path and boxed him in behind the trees. When he knocked on the cop’s window, the cop denied the scam, but said that he wouldn’t do it again. ;-) It was no use, he was caught in the act and was now “warned.” My Dad got back into the wrecker to come back to the station, then changed his mind, and went back to the cop’s car again, knocked on the window and said: “I don’t want you picking on my boys for this either!”
   “No, no, I wouldn’t do that” he said, and believe it or not, he didn’t. Doug and I were relishing the whole thing as we could hear our Dad and the anguish in the cop’s voice as he had been trapped in his own scam. Perfect justice!

  Another part time cop in Spring Valley had a Nash Rambler with a little plug-in flashing red light that he parked on his dash for stopping people. No siren, no V-8, no radio, no nothing, just a badge. One busy Friday night a guy from the Centerville area by the name of Roen came into the station with his ’57 Ford and bought $2 worth of gas. Then he tore out of the station like Dean Madson used to do, and ripped out the rubber hose that rang the bell.

His young wife Inga Jahr was with him, along with their baby. He sped up Main Street, cut a "louey" up by Carpenter’s station on the blacktop and then raced back down to highway 29 where he ran the stop sign heading east toward Keere’s Funeral Parlor. Then back into SV the back way only to do the same thing again. It certainly appeared that he wanted to have the cop on duty chase him, and finally the cop did with his Nash Rambler. Down by the sewer plant again he sped, where he stopped, waited for the cop, then spun out again for a third run up and down main street. Again he came toward the station, only this time he headed west on highway 29 and ran head-on into the stop sign, flattened it to the ground in a “kathunk.” The cop could not keep up and was now following him at an ever greater distance. By now somebody had called the Sheriff’s Department in Ellsworth and somewhere out on highway 29 the county cop met him and got into hot pursuit. Just past Centerville, aided by police radios, a State Trooper joined the gaggle along with a St. Croix County cop.

  The chase ended with Roen losing all of the them on a gravel road near my Grandma Jenson’s place where he was actually from. He sailed over a hill that had a “T” just past the crest, flew off the road WITHOUT leaving any marks, OVER the corn and landed in the field NOT leaving a trace for the cops to follow. Not finding anything, the cops eventually left the scene. The guy and his wife got a lift back to the cities and that was it. He got by with it as far as I know. The car? I’m sure it went to the junk yard after they picked the corn!

  Not long after my high school days I moved to River Falls where I attended college and grew up!