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Recorded December 2022
December 18, 2022:
Recently I had a nice chat with Lois Losse. I wanted to ask her about things she remembered from Christmases in her childhood. We talked about that and many other things from her days on the farm.
Lois was born in the 1930s to George and Clara Kveen about 4 miles east of Roseau. Her dad was a farmer and used horses for many years until he could buy an Allis-Chalmers tractor. That was a big step up in productivity in the field. He used it for many years, eventually switching to John Deere equipment. Lois herself still owns an Allis-Chalmers tractor which she said is now at her son Franklyn’s place. It has a sickle mower, and she encourages him to use it to cut the ditchbanks.
Their family had lots of animals over the years. They had milk cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and usually at least one pig to have for butchering in the fall. They had about 100 sheep at times which were sheered. She remembers that the sheep became more like pets. The lambs would be sent to market so there would be times you’d have to get a new pet. That was an accepted part of farm life. The sheep had their own shed to stay in during the cold weather. The pig had his own corner in the barn. There were also horses in the barn with all the cows. Cream would be hauled to town in cans until the bulk tanks started picking it up in later years. Her dad would hunt deer, too.
Lois remembered that their family, like most others in those days, didn’t have much money for Christmas presents. Often things were made at home. That also included baking bread and cakes, and sewing. Her mother Clara was very good to sew clothes, and Lois remembers many times after the kids went upstairs to bed, her mother would be at the sewing machine late into the night.
The first present Lois remembers getting was a teddy bear that she got when she was about 5 years old. I asked her if she still had it. She chuckled and said, “No, I wore it out.” The kids would have stockings hung up for Santa to fill. She never saw him come, but always found things like an apple or orange and candy and peanuts in the stockings on Christmas morning.
They always had a big garden and did a lot of canning. Lois continued that tradition as an adult, canning vegetables in 2-quart jars. She worked at the hospital for many years in Activities. She had her own large family of 8 to feed during those years and would have two big dishpans that she’d expect the kids to have full and ready for canning during the gardening season when she got home from work. She remembers someone complaining about that never-ending chore, and she simply said, “There are 365 days in the year, and I expect to eat every day, don’t you?” There wasn’t so much complaining when that reality was pointed out. The 2-quart jars she used required a 5-hour hot water bath. She would set them in the canner on the stove after supper, set a timer for 5 hours and get some sleep while they cooked. Lois also canned deer meat and chickens. She liked to add beef bouillon to the deer meat which gave it a less-wild flavor. The chicken was fried and packed in the large jars. She raised big chickens she said.
Lois continued to work for many years at the hospital. That was where I first met her in the early ‘80s. She had to quit working in Activities after falling on an icy sidewalk covered with snow as she came to work one day. That injury required back surgery and shoulder repair. From then on, she did some work in medical records, lab, and x-ray departments doing errands as needed. After retiring from the hospital, she continued to be a productive worker, driving people to medical appointments in Grand Forks, Fargo, Bemidji, Baudette, and Bagley. She did that until last year.
We talked a little more about the farming work when she was young. I asked if her dad used the tractor for putting up hay. She said “No, we used the Armstrong method.” She laughed and asked if I had heard of that method. She meant that they used their own strong arms. She described herself as a bit of a tomboy as a kid, and that she had enjoyed the times when they’d saw wood with a big blade on the front of the tractor. Wood was used to heat their house. A wood-burning furnace was in the basement and vents through the walls heated the upstairs. She said her brother Leonard’s widow, Carole Kveen, now owns the property that she grew up on, but lives in the Cities now where her kids are.
We talked a little about what kind of Christmas celebrations there would be. She remembered getting together with her Bakken cousins who lived a couple miles away. Anna was her mother’s sister and married to Sig Bakken. They had 7 kids themselves and with George and Clara’s 6, it was a full house. They’d gather at one house and then during the week would gather at the other house during the holidays. Lois remembers all the kids being upstairs while the parents were downstairs.
Christmas supper would usually be one of the turkeys they had raised as well as lutefisk. They always had riced potatoes, grown in their own garden, and lefse and thin bread. When I asked where her Christmas celebrations take place now, she said she stays home and the kids come to her apartment. She has some in the area and others farther away. She has 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandkids that live in the Cities. Her grandson Brandon is their father.
She remembers being very grateful for the gifts they got at Christmas. It was a very different time.
Thanks, Lois, for letting me ask about your Christmas memories, and thanks to WILD 102 for this time to share our county’s stories.
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.