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Recorded August 2022
August 7, 2022:
In June, I shared stories about my dad, Gilmore Flaten, and 2 of his brothers and a sister. There is still one brother to tell you about and one more sister. The story for today is about Emil Flaten, written for us by his granddaughter Lindsey Erickson. I’ll read it now just as she wrote it.
My name is Lindsey Erickson. I am Emil Flaten’s oldest granddaughter. I am Loretta’s daughter.
Emil was born September 13th, 1929, in Pinecreek, Minnesota, to Gilbert and Ida (Davidson) Flaten. I remember as a young girl thinking it was so strange my grandpa wasn’t given a “middle name”, as it is commonplace here. I asked my grandpa as a young girl, “Grandpa, why don’t you have a middle name?” His response was quick and witty, much the way he was throughout his life. He said, “I guess Ma figured if I was smart enough to learn to write two names, she was doing good.”
That sets the mood for who my grandpa was. He was quiet, observant, witty and had the best dry sense of humor.
He was born in an old log home in Pinecreek. His siblings were Gilmore, Irene, Albert, Edwin and Martha. All of the children shared one bedroom upstairs. The children attended school at Groveside 107 School. It was quite a walk to school, being almost a mile, and with the severe winters we get here, I’m sure the walk was mighty unpleasant some days.
When my grandpa started school, he and his siblings did not speak much English. At home, they spoke Norwegian, but at school, if they were caught speaking it versus English, they had to write lines from the English Dictionary and were reprimanded. It was commonplace for boys to finish school in the 8th grade then, and it was no different for Emil, who only completed Grade 8 and was then needed to help at home on the farm. There was always so much to do, from farm work tending to the animals (chickens, pigs, cows, horses), to cutting wood for fence posts and heating in the cold winter, and many other tasks.
Emil enjoyed hunting and trapping with his brothers, and would every chance they got.
When he was 16, he went to North Dakota to help farmers with threshing and whatever other work was needed.
After that, Grandpa enlisted in the Army in 1949. All of the brothers were enlisted in different branches of the military. My Grandpa loved his country and was proud to serve. He served in the Korean War. He was named a Sergeant as part of an ordnance team with the 407 Engineer Combat Battalion.
Emil was in heavy combat and was ordered to destroy a bridge to prevent enemy from crossing, but unknown to them, the enemy had already crossed at another location and they were quickly surrounded. They were so outnumbered that most of the unit were killed. Emil and two GIs waited for the last of the Americans to cross the bridge and blew it up. They were speeding to catch up to the rest of the unit and blew the engine of their jeep. Seeing the enemy troops, they left the road and fled the disabled jeep and hid in long grass. After a couple days, the other two GIs decided to try to walk to friendly lines and Grandpa said he never saw the two men again. Emil’s parents were soon notified that he was “missing in action.” Hearing that as a young girl I would always think of how awful that must’ve been, but now being a parent myself, my blood runs cold, and that had to be the most awful scary news.
Emil survived the best he could. He’d lay in rice paddies and hide during the day. I remember him telling me he’d hear the Koreans walking by and he’d hold his breath, as not to make a peep or a movement. Now, this was not common. My Grandpa did not often talk about his time in combat or the Army, so when he’d tell you something, you’d really listen. During the night, Emil would raid farms and scavenge for food. He told his brother of one time grabbing a chicken and running as fast as he could with a Korean lady running after him, yelling and shaking her fist. “But,” he’d proudly exclaim with a chuckle, “I got the chicken!”
Eventually the Americans regained the position where he had been hiding and he identified himself to them. He then found out he was one of the only survivors of the 407th Battalion. He had been behind enemy lines, missing in action for 31 days. He was sent home shortly after. His brother Gilmore said he barely recognized him because he had lost so much weight and had gotten malaria.
Emil was awarded the Bronze Stars along with Presidential Unit Citation, plus a lot of other medals and citations. We are all extremely proud of Grandpa. He was a true military hero, brave, strong, patriotic and tenacious.
After coming home, Emil married Marilyn Kvien on May 17, 1953, in Santa Monica, California. Obviously, I’m biased, but I look at their wedding pictures and their time in California, and they are two of the most beautiful people in the world. They look like Hollywood celebrities. They had a son Terry, who died as an infant, then four daughters, Carol, Loretta, Cindy and Rhonda.
The family moved to Albany, Oregon in 1965 until they returned to Minnesota in 1970.
Emil worked on the Green Peter Dam and welded in the shipyards in Oregon, and worked at Polaris back in Roseau, Minnesota. He welded there as well. He was very talented at welding, so a lot of farmers would hire him to do welding for them as well.
My Grandpa and Grandma always worked hard, no matter what the job. They always did what it took to make things work, and I was lucky enough to grow up watching and learning how to be hard working and self-sufficient and self-reliant as they both were.
After they retired, it was always a dream of theirs to travel to Alaska. I was lucky enough, along with my cousin Joshua, and Aunt Carol, to be brought along for the month vacation. We saw so many beautiful things, panned for gold (I’m still working so obviously it wasn’t too fruitful haha), and did a lot of fishing. Emil LOVED to fish. They had a camper and boat at Buffalo Point in Manitoba, Canada (about a 40-minute drive from their home in Roseau).
When you went fishing with Grandpa, you knew it was an all-day affair and there was no going back until the fishing limit was hit. There were so many great memories of lunches on the boat, hearing “big fish tales”, laughing and being together.
My grandparents sold the camper and boat after my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer and fell ill. He fought cancer like everything else in his life, with bravery, strength, and a good dose of dry humor.
Emil passed away March 6, 1999, and my grandma died January 25, 2020. They were a wonderful couple, wonderful parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. We are all truly blessed. They are buried side by side at the Pinecreek Cemetery with the rest of the Flaten relatives passed.
Thanks to Lindsey Erickson Schellenberg for writing Emil’s story
August 14, 2022:
Last week I told you about my uncle Emil Flaten. Today I’ll read from his wife Marilyn’s memoirs of her life growing up in Pinecreek, the daughter of Olaf and Myrtle Kvien. Here is her story:
I was born June 7, 1931 in Sheldon, North Dakota where my dad worked farming for his aunt Mrs. Opdahl. I was born at home. Mother had a hard time in delivery as I was born breach. I was baptized Marilyn Olive Kvien, Marilyn after Myrtle and Olive after Olaf.
In the fall of 1931 we moved back to Pinecreek where we lived at Grandma and Grandpa Heskin’s till Dad bought the Stenius Benson farm. Dad grain-farmed and also had cows, pigs, and chickens. We had about 10 – 15 cows. Some calved at different times of the year so we had some milking at all times. We separated the milk. Then the milk was used to drink and also was fed to the young calves. When we had enough, we fed the pigs some, too. The cream was used for cooking and for cream and bread. Also we would make ice cream.
Most of the cream was sold at the creamery. We churned our own cream to make butter. This was a job we did not enjoy. The cream was put in a wooden barrel churn and stood on a stand. The barrel had a crank which turned …listen for the rest of the story here.
August 21, 2022:
Today I’ll continue reading the memories that my aunt Marilyn Kvien Flaten shared with her daughters in a journal. She told about her life as a kid in Pinecreek. I’ll continue with her story now.
Alfin Knutson and his sister Alma owned the store in Pinecreek. Their folks had the store originally. In the store they sold groceries, some hardware, also some clothes and yard goods. Mostly overalls and stockings, mittens, etc. Most of the women sewed their own dresses and aprons.
Most things were sold in bulk, so much a pound, Raisins, rice, dry beans, sugar, cookies, candy. Alfin was noted for his good “lutefisk” because he bought it by the barrel and changed water on it every day. They also sold gas, the gas pumps with measure on the glass on top. They were pumped by hand. They also sold some dishes and jars for canning. He would take eggs or butter in trade for groceries. Also the farmers brought their cream cans full to the store and someone was hired to haul them to the creamery in Ross. Farmers would all have their names painted on the cream cans.
I also remember going to Grandpa and Grandma’s for Christmas. We went in a ”caboose” (a little house on a sled) driven by 2 horses. We had a small kerosene stove in it to keep us warm. But mother was so scared it would tip and catch us on fire. I think she would have rather been cold.
Christmas of course was exciting for us kids. We would have a big supper, usually a goose that Grandma had raised, or a turkey. After we ate, Grandpa would always have us kids recite our reading we had for our Christmas program at church. Then they would light the candles on the Christmas tree when we all had to sit still and admire the tree.
Then at last we got to open our packages. I remember one Christmas Dad thought Donnie would feel like a big boy if he got a pocket watch for Christmas. No one had wrist watches then, every man had pocket watches. Well after we had all opened our packages, Mom said, Where is Donnie?” We found him at the kitchen table with his pocket watch all taken apart. I don’t think they ever got it together. No wonder he got to be a mechanic – everything he got had to be taken apart.
We lived in a log cabin. Downstairs was a kitchen and bedroom, one bedroom upstairs and one storage room. The kitchen had a wood stove and woodbox to hold enough wood for a day. A large table to seat 10 of us. Also had a sink and medicine cabinet. Had 2 cupboards, also had the milk separator in the kitchen. In the middle of the floor was a trap door going down in the cellar hole. There was dirt floor and had a bin for potatoes, also a ledge for can goods. In the kitchen was a hanging gas lamp. Had an ice box (like a refrigerator), where you put a block of ice to keep it cold with a drain under to catch water from ice melting. If you forgot to empty the pan, we had water all over the floor.
Also had to have a slop pail to put all wash water and other waste in.
In the bedroom downstairs was a bed and crib. A wood heating stove, also one chest of drawers and a sewing machine. Upstairs in bedroom we had 3 beds and one chest of drawers and a little room in the middle of the floor to stand to dress or undress. In the other room upstairs was a rod to put clothes on 2 trunks where Mom kept extra clothes and one for Mom’s “good stuff”. This room also held about 10 – 15 100 # sacks of flour and maybe 5 100 # sacks of sugar and boxes of extra things like Christmas decorations (candles for the tree), boxes of shoes etc.
We all had jobs to do. Carry in wood for both cook stove and heater, carry in water for drinking, cooking and washing, carry out slop pail, help milk, feed hay, feed chickens and pick eggs, feed the pigs, pump a very large water tank full of water for cows and horses. Also in the summer Mom had a very large garden, so we had to help hoe and pick weeds and hill up the potatoes. Then when the beans and peas were ready we had to help pick and shell and snip ready for canning. Also had to pick cucumbers and wash so Mom could pickle.
We waited for the corn to get ripe cause we all loved corn on the cob. We would eat corn and bread, so the table was full of corn cobs. In fact when we had corn Mom would cook so much she would use the boiler (a very big kettle that would cover 2 burners on the stove) We would see who could eat the most corn. No wonder we were nice and plump. And imagine how much butter we ate on all that corn.
This boiler was used to heat water to wash clothes.
When Debby Heskin was born I stayed and helped Alma. We were going to wash clothes and we put the handle of boiler with boiling water on the edge of the washing machine. Well, it slipped off and I got the boiler full of hot water on my leg and foot. By the time Clayton got home to take me to the Doctor, I had blisters that hung from my leg. It may have been a gallon of water in the blisters. Doctor pulled all the blisters off and I had to dress my leg with salve that looked like mustard. But it must have been good cause I never got any scars.
I remember Alma got labor pains and Clayton was on the field. I called Alma’s folks to come. I was so scared the baby would be born before they got there. I may have fainted if I was there alone. Ha.
I’ll read more from Marilyn’s story next week.
Thanks to WILD 102 for this time to tell our county’s stories. NO audio available.
July 24, 2022:
My aunt Marilyn Kvien Flaten wrote her memoirs of life growing up in Pinecreek in a journal for her daughters. I’ve been reading from that for the last two weeks and will continue today as she describes times with her brother Donnie Kvien.
One time Donnie and I asked Mom if we could go play upstairs on the barn. We liked to slide on the hay. She said yes, if you put a cover over the hole that they put hay down in the barn. Donnie took one end of the wooden cover and me the other end. When we did, I walked backwards and fell down the hole we were going to cover. I guess I had my mouth open as I fell and got the pole on the manger in my mouth. It pushed my jaws back in my mouth. They took me to the Dr. Berge and I was put to sleep and woke up in the Dentist office. I had to stay in Roseau in case of internal injury so I stayed at Clarence and Martha Kvien’s. I did not want to stay as my cousins the Talaksons were up and I wanted to be at home. Clarence said if you stay with us I’ll get you all the malted milk you want. My jaws were wired together so I could only suck the food through a straw. The promise of malted milk made me stay in town.
One year my mother did not have chickens so Dad made a wooden fence around the chicken house and put pigs in there. Donnie and I would go feed the pigs, pour the milk in a wooden trough, then one would pour the milk and …listen for the rest of the story here.
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