Listen to the Weekly Radio Readings by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member
Recorded December 2021
December 5, 2021:
I’ve been reading from a book I came across at the Roseau County Museum which told about innovators
and influencers in the agriculture industry of the Northern Plains. One of the first chapters interviewed
Bob Bergland and I’ll read from that chapter again today.
He remembers the time, in March of 1977, when the American Agriculture Movement organized a
demonstration in Sterling, Colorado. “Farmers were upset with falling crop prices. The meeting was
unruly and I listened to tales of woe for three hours. I said little because they wanted me to listen, so I
did. When it came time to leave, I found the car that brought me surrounded by tractors, blocking my
way. An angry young man in a big four-wheel-drive tractor was bearing down on me. The police raised
their shotguns, pushed me behind a big tree, and the tractor stopped. After it was over the police asked
if I wanted to press charges. I said no and asked if he had continued to come, would they have shot at
him? They said yes – not to injure the young driver but to blow out all his tires!”
Later in 1977, the AAM organized a tractorcade, hauling and then driving hundreds of tractors to
Washington to call attention to the stress caused by falling crop prices and high-priced land. Hundreds
of mostly younger middle-aged farmers and spouses filled the atrium at the USDA to overflowing. The
demonstration attracted a lot of media and political attention.
Bergland describes what happened: “The meeting had barely gotten underway when what sounded like
gunshots stunned everyone. It turned out later to be firecrackers and no one was injured, but the police
ushered me to the ground floor, removed a window screen so I could crawl out, put me into a police car,
and off we went to the security of the White House compound. The President…listen for the rest of the story.
December 12, 2021:
My sister Tallie Habstritt and I recently had a visit over coffee with our second cousin Clarice Lancaster
in Roseau. Her parents were Clara Dahl and Ralph Medicraft. Clarice was born at her Grandma Dahl’s
house in Falun. By the time she was 5, her family had moved to a house of their own in Palmville
Township, south of Wannaska and about a mile west of the old schoolhouse on the south side of the
road. The house was very small by today’s standards, just 16 x 20, with no electricity or running water
inside, and had only one bed for her parents to sleep in. Her older brother slept on the floor and the
next three kids slept on a couch that pulled out into a bed at night. I asked where the baby brother slept,
and she said he slept between the parents when he came along. Clarice was 9 when he was born.
She grew up during the Depression so there wasn’t a lot of money for anything extra. The house was lit
with kerosene lamps and later Aladdin lamps. They had long chimneys, which eventually had to be
washed when they got coated with soot from the burning wick.
They raised a garden for fresh eating and canning. Canned produce was stored below the house in a
cellar accessed through a hole in the floor. They raised farm animals which gave them eggs and meat.
Her mother would trade eggs and butchered chickens to the Knute Lee store in Wannaska for other
groceries like flour. They milked cows mornings and evenings, and after setting aside enough whole milk
for the family to drink at mealtime, the rest had to be run through…listen for the rest of the story.
December 19, 2021:
This story was written by my aunt Martha Haaby a few years ago about her memories of Christmas as a
girl in the 1940s.
Christmas at the Flaten house in Pinecreek
It was a magical time ….our mother, Ida, worked hard to make it exactly that….but first the practical side
of things. The baking was done: Lefse, Fattigman, Krumkaka, Rosettes, Sweet Soup.
The tree dad cut was brought in and set up to “thaw” and “settle”
Everything was scrubbed, the curtains were washed starched, and stretched. All that could be cleaned,
We stored the Christmas tree trimmings upstairs on the granary, the same place we stored the dynamite,
down the box would come. Everything in the box was the same year after year but it was so exciting to
open it and start draping and hanging things on the tree. There was always tinsel…had to have tinsel. I
still have the gold braid that we draped on every year. It may look kind of pathetic and worn to some but
that is not what I see.. ..another decoration I remember was the 3-dimensional 8 point stars that my
cousin from Chicago, Dorothy Halling, made. There must have been 15-20 of them. She folded them into
that design (origami), then waxed them and applied glitter. We had them on the tree every year and
they were stored in “the box”.
Then it was “Little Christmas Eve” (the 23rd) time just sit and look at the completed preparation for
Christmas. So satisfying. So beautiful. And part of this special evening was to have hot chocolate and
Mom still had to go to the barn for milking. When that happened I got busy checking out presents. Once
I sneak- peeked one and it was a lamp from my brother Gilmore. It had very beautiful …listen for the rest of the story.
December 26, 2021:
My aunt Betty Lou Olson who now lives in Thief River Falls, but was born in Falun here in Roseau County,
recently talked to me about a favorite Christmas memory from her childhood.
She was just eight years old when her father Victor Emanuel Nelson died from what they believe was a
heat stroke in the summer of 1935. They had moved to rural Thief River Falls before that happened. He
was 42 and left behind a 37-year-old widow, Tilda (my grandmother), and seven kids twelve and under.
They had only been married 13 years and Tilda was, of course, devastated; and like most people in 1935,
they had already been living modestly. Now their only source of income would be their farm. Tilda’s
oldest child, born in Malung, was my uncle Gene Nelson and he had to take on a lot of responsibility
around the farm.
The next child was June, who had been born in Salol. She was about 10 and had to work in the house
while Grandma helped Gene outside with animals, garden, and farm duties. Betty Lou was only eight
and had been frail after a bout of rheumatic fever as a little girl. While Gene helped outside, and June
worked inside cooking and cleaning, Betty Lou was assigned babysitting duties since she wasn’t as
strong as the older kids. There was a brother named Jack (also born in Falun) who helped Gene outside
as much as he could, and three younger girls born after their move to Thief River Falls. Marian was
about 4, my mom, Kelly, was about 3, and the youngest girl Phyllis was only 3 months old when their
dad died. So even the babysitting job would have been quite a responsibility for an 8-year-old girl. Of
course, her big sister June also helped keep the little girls happy.
Grandma and her seven children carried on the best they could, but Victor’s sister Mae Hetteen and his
brother, John Nelson, visited and could see that Tilda was very depressed as Christmas was coming and
there were no funds to make a festive Christmas. Betty Lou remembers…listen for the rest of the story.
Thank you to for letting us share the history of our county with your listeners.