Jerry Carlson: In Milaca, the more things change, the more they stay the same

Some may think living in the country during the 1930’s and 40’s might not have been much to do. With no electronics, how could kids live without television and computer games. In a child’s mind today, going without a cell phone or not having wifi access is viewed as a punishment. I may have not had those items as a boy but I can honestly say I was not bored growing up. We could always find things to do around the farm or close by. By today’s standards they may not seem exciting, but we thought they were.
Often we would get in the family car and take trips to nearby relatives or friends homes. Along the way, there was always adventure and things to look at. We often would play games in the car like looking for objects as we drove; such as who could see the first white horse or play I spy. Being together in the car became time to share what had been going on during the week or make upcoming plans.
When we would go to the home of our family friends Walt and Beryl Martinson a few miles north of our house, we would pass an flowing artesian well. The well was across the road from my friend Marcy Swanson’s grandparents farm. We would drive north, crossing the Highway 23 railroad tracks and then shortly find the well on the right side of the road. This was a gathering spot for people, as they were there with their jugs and containers, filling them to the brim with cool fresh water to take home. On warm days, you could see the people gulping the refreshing water right from the well. The well was nothing fancy, no big stone columns or sign announcing its presence. There, off the road in the grass and dirt was a pipe that was about a foot off the ground. Toward the top there was a hole that the water would flow out of and this is where everyone placed their jugs to capture the water. With the water being so fresh and not contaminated from anything, the taste was much better and refreshing then most people’s well water. It was fun to see who all was at the well as you drove by and often we would stop and chat with them before heading on our way. There was no way to turn off the water as it flowed from the pipe continuously, so the extra would pour out onto the grass. As you can imagine, this made the soil very wet and muddy, so collecting water was not something you did when wearing your best shoes. As I child, I can remember being amazed at the water flowing out of the pipe from the well and wondered how that water was making its way up from the ground below and reaching the surface. It did not make sense to me, which made it more intriguing. Also, I could not imagine when all the other water had froze during the winter, how did this water keep flowing and not freeze.
There was a small building build next to the artesian well and for a while they tried to bottle it, but that failed quickly. Who in their right mind would buy bottled water when you could get it free? I guess people where not ready for this, the land owner was a man with the right vision but at the wrong time. Marcy Swanson reminded me about how pop supposedly was also made out of the water from this spring, though neither of us can remember where it was sold.
We didn’t have any large theaters or places that put on Broadway shows, but we had our own version. The Bogus Brook Township Players consisted of people who lived in the Bogus Brook community and put on plays during the warmer months. The reason they were only in the summer months was because the hall where the plays were put on had no electricity. The shows were shown in the town hall located by the Rum River Steel Bridge, where a new, smaller Bogus Brook Town Hall stands. The hall looked like a a house and had a nice porch across the front of it. Inside there was a kitchen and a big room where the plays were put on. It had a raised area that was the stage and we would sit on folding chairs to watch the show. The actors sang without any accompaniment while candlelights flickered from the lanterns handing from the ceiling created the soft glow of light needed. Each performance would have about six actors per show and 40-50 people could fit in the building to watch.
One of the plays that I can remember was called “Aaron Slick from Pumpkin Crick”. We were so excited to see plays with live actors; you would have thought we were seeing a Broadway show Roy Johnson and the lead as Bill Merridew and my aunt Gladys Selander played the lead role of Gladys. It was a 100% certainty she would not forget her name in the play. The performance was a musical about a dreamy farmer’s widow who was obsessed with moving to the city, a shy clumsy neighbor and some crooks. The crooks knew that there is an oil field on her property and tried to trick her out of her land. The play was a huge success and ran to a full house every performance on the weekends.
Another special outing for my family was attending Minneapolis Lakers Basketball games. We did not get to do it often, but when we did, it was a treat. I loved playing basketball! I was not able to play on the school’s team because I had to work at my dad’s electronic store after school, but I did play basketball at noon during high school in the gym. My dad was the district manager for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Paper for our area and as a thank you they would give him tickets to the basketball games. The four of us would pack into the car and make the trip down to the Minneapolis Auditorium to watch the game. On the way there we would stop in Zimmerman to grab lunch at the gas station. We never went out to eat, so this added to such a special day. It was also a treat to be able to walk around downtown looking at all the people and tall buildings. Being able to go to a game and watch players such as: George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Bud Grant, Whitey Skoog and Vern Mikkelsen who were being coached by John Kundla was amazing. The Lakers were an exception team and they even had pop and popcorn to buy. Another favorite part of the game was watching the Lakerettes NBA cheerleaders; they were beautiful.
As I sit here watching on the television the NCAA Basketball Tournament, drinking water from a bottle I have to smile at how different things are but so very much the same.

Jerry Carlson grew up in the Milaca area and now resides in Bloomington, Minnesota. With the help of his daughter Jill’s writing, he hopes to bring back memories of past Milaca experiences.