Dorr: A connection between Mother’s Day and the garden that was a must for our family

NOTE: Because of the writer’s limited knowledge of computers, there are six of my blogs previous to this one that have been floating around in space. Some of them may be of interest. To access them, click on the bottom of this blog where it says: Filed under: Luther Dorr

Today is the 17th Mother’s Day that I’ve had without my mother around to thank for all the things she did for me and my sisters. And as I planted a few tomato plants and one cucumber plant this weekend, I thought of the years that she presided over the garden that our family had in the ’50s and ’60s.

It wasn’t just something to do like it is for me now – I can survive without the few tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes and onions in my small backyard plot – it was a must for our large family to survive.

We grew our own salads out in the sandy soil of Sherburne County where watermelons and strawberries flourished. Everything you needed, including the lettuce, was right there in our huge garden. We didn’t have to go to the store for a thing, our dressings being homemade.

True, we didn’t have salads in the winter but there was nothing like having that fresh lettuce in the summer. Tuna fish sandwiches were a regular menu item at our home and we had fresh lettuce with those sandwiches.

A couple things we did have most of the year around because of that garden overseen by our mother were potatoes and carrots. In the fall, when we’d get home from school, one of the tasks was to dig potatoes and carrots and then take them to a dark room in the basement where they would be kept to last us until the next crop.

This was back when potatoes and gravy were a part of at least one meal a day, if not two, and we didn’t worry much about calories. Those meals also included vegetables almost all the time, fresh ones in season and frozen or canned ones when summer was over.

We had peas, carrots, beans and corn, just like many people did back then, if we could make it from the garden to the house without eating raw half of what we had picked. It was a treat to eat those vegetables when they were fresh but almost more of a treat to have frozen ones in the grasp of a cold Minnesota winter that made us wish we could be out weeding in the garden.

Weeding – now there was a task that was looked down on by all of us. As the morning sun began to beat upon us, with the promise of another stiflingly-hot day, we would be encouraged to get out to the garden and do our weeding before it got too hot. If we couldn’t find an excuse like mowing the lawn (all of a sudden everyone wanted to mow), all seven kids would head out to the garden to pull weeds. As the oldest, I sometimes got to push a hand cultivator between the rows. That was a lot better than bending down to pick the weeds away from the plants, even though it was very similar to pushing  a mower (not motorized) through the grass.

Our garden also contained things like kohlrabi, swiss chard and turnips, not to mention spinach which grew to be one of my favorites. We also had beets and we even tried peanuts a couple years, roasting them in the oven after harvesting.

And did we have tomatoes and cucumbers! We had cukes in salads, creamed cukes, and cukes in vinegar. And we had pickles of every kind you can imagine.We had cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes and yellow tomatoes. We had tomato jam and in the winter we had tomato soup. quite different than what Campbell puts out, with canned tomatoes from the garden. And no self-respecting homemaker would buy spaghetti sauce – we made it at home.

Cabbage? We had boiled cabbage, cole slaw with homemade dressing, and sauerkraut 12 months a year. I’ll never forget shredding all that cabbage for sauerkraut, as well as the smell of the brine.

My favorite was asparagus. We had a couple asparagus beds and I would always get an extra helping of asparagus when it was in season. It’s still my favorite today.

A pressure cooker was an important part of life then. We canned and canned and canned. And when winter came we’d go to the shelves that went from floor to ceiling in the basement and pick out whatever we wanted for the next meal.

Onions, peppers, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, watermelons, raspberries, strawberries – all of those things were in our garden. What an important thing it was for our family, eating all those good things that today come from the grocery store for a good share of the population.

The taskmaster – our mother –  nurtured us through those years, years when grinding our own wheat for all our bread was also part of out lives. She was a rock for our family as we blended the garden produce with the chickens (eggs and meat) and two or three beef cattle that we had. And on this Mother’s Day in 2017 I’m thankful for the direction she pointed us, even if we didn’t enjoy working in the garden. She put us on the right path.

News events from in and around Princeton in 1980

Construction dollars reported for 1979 in Princeton totaled $2,642,445, less than half of the $5,874,000 in 1978. The largest single unit was a 16-unit apartment building near Highlander Laundromat on the south edge of  the city.

The Fingerhut Mfg. factory in Princeton near the post office (Cook Floor Covering today) closed after being open since 1955, Fingerhut then donated the building, its worth estimated at $400,000, to the city a month later.

Elementary teacher Carol Nelson was named Princeton Teacher of the Year.

A virus hit local schools hard, 152 of the 652 students at the junior high missing on one day, 130 of the 638 at South Elemenry absent on one day, and about 120 on average missing of the 772 at North Elementary during the last week of January and first week of February.

A fire caused $2 million in damage at Griswold Mfg. east of Princeton.

About 30 Princeton businesspersons went to the state legislature to protest tax increases in Princeton. A group had done the same in 1976.

The school board passed a resolution opposing downtown redevelopment, saying it would have a detrimental effect on financing a building proposal. (A downtown mall had been proposed.) The board was considering three different building projects for the school district.

The City Council rejected a mall proposal a week later in April, with a crowd of about 300 attending. The proposal concerned the blocks on which malls were eventually built (and are still there today).

Princeton teachers were awarded a 17-percent salary increase by a state arbitrator in April. That was an average of $2,880 for a two-year contract.

Incumbent Gary Andeson and Fred Hayes were elected to the school board, incumbent Roger Angstman being voted out.

There were 187 in the graduating class at Princeton High School.

The Princeton Marching Tigers won the District 10 American Legion marching band competition for the fourth straight year.

The Princeton Youth Hockey Association told the City Council in June that it was developing plans to build an ice arena.

The population of Princeton increased 21 percent from 1970 to 1980, going from 2,531 to 3,069. It was the largest increase in Mille Lacs County, Milaca, for example, increasing by 5 percent to 2,038.

The rerouting of Highway 95, making it go straight west from where the roundabout is now, instead of turning south and going through Princeton, was completed and opened in August. The project cost $1.7 million,

In September a downtown mall plan was axed by a land sale rejection. Discussion had continued throughout the year and there was talk of locating a mall outside the downtown.

The Highway 169 bypass was opened in October, thus taking both Highway 169 and Highway 95 out of Princeton.The bypass project cost about $8.4 million. Work began in May 1978. Seven bridges were built as part of the projects, two as part of the rerouting of Highway 95.

Voters in the school district, by a vote of 2,386-781, turned down a proposal to build a new high school at a cost of $8.5 million.

Union workers went on strike at Smith System Mfg. in November, 150 of the 164 employees walking picket lines. The strike ended five days later, employees getting an increase of 11 percent in wages the first year and 10 percent each of the next two years.

The city received a federal grant of $600,000 for urban development. In an unrelated development the city and Plastic Products agreed on a change in the sale of the former Crystal Cabinet Works building. The sale was for $700,000.

As the year ended the school board planned to have a vote in February for a bond issue of $1.6 million.


May 23, 1957 – The annual athletic banquet was scheduled to be held at the new elementary school (South Elementary, now razed) with George Durenberger (father of Sen. Dave Durenberger), athletic director at St. John’s University in Collegeville, as guest speaker. A crowd of 300 was expected.

May 24, 1962 – It was decided at a Rum River Conference meeting to raise ticket prices to 75 cents to help “maintain athletic departments on a self-sufficient basis.”

May 25, 1967 – Princeton beat Elk River 3-2 behind Art Skarohlid, 3-2, but Elk River won the Rum River title for the eighth time in nine years since the Rum River began sponsoring baseball competition.

May 31, 1972 – Kevin Gerth was fourth in the Region Four two-mile run at 9:57 . . . Ron Deglmann struck out 14 and gave up only five hits in a 5-4 11-inning town team win over Foley. Keith Grow doubled in Jerry Bergeron with the winning run and Tom Miller had three hits.

May 26, 1977 – Gary Klym pitched a 12-inning 3-2 win over Braham for PHS as Tom Hoffman scored on a wild pitch, and Fred Jenson pitched a nine-inning 4-3 win over Brooklyn Center as Scott Knoll scored on a wild pitch.

May 27, 1982 – David Sanborn, Greg Braford and Jeff Swanson made all-conference in golf. Earlier the team shot a record-breaking 145 while beating Monticello at home as five players scored between 34 and 39, Braford shooting the 34 . . . The PHS baseball team beat Sauk Rapids 2-1 to tie for the Rum River title, Erik Soule getting the win.

May 28, 1987 – Mike Sternquist beat North Branch 7-1 in a subregion baseball game . . . Herb Wicktor had a hole in one on No. 5 (par 3) at Rum River Golf Club . . . Judy Bornholdt and Karen Bromberg were co-medalists at 91 as Princeton won the Section 7AA golf title by 22 strokes.

May 28, 1992 – Corrine Lundell gave up two runs in 21 innings of pitching as Princeton won the Section 7AA softball championship . . . Alison Ringaman shot a 93 to win the section golf championship . . . The PHS baseball team advanced with a 13-3 subsection win over Mora that took two days to complete because or rain.

May 29, 1997 – The PHS softball team was seeded first in the subsection but lost 7-5 to St. Francis . . . The PHS baseball team finished second in the Rum River and was seeded second in the subsection but lost 7-6 in the first round to Chisago Lakes after leading 4-0.

May 23, 2002 – Tony Peltier won the pole vault at 12’6″ as the boys track team placed sixth in the Rum River track meet . . . It was announced that Luke Bakken had been chosen for the high school all-star baseball series.

May 24, 2007 – The PHS boys golf team won its first-ever Mississippi 8 title with a score of 317, Brandon Hanson tying for medalist with a 75 . . . Making all-conference in track for PHS were Dylan King, John Stone, Ryan Fay and Grady Milesko for the boys, and Katie Loberg, Liz Davis and Tara Lemke for the girls.

May 24, 2012 – The girls track team won the Granite Ridge Conference title as Caitlin Reeves won the 800- and 1600-meter runs, Jadyn Bonasera won the discus and Taylor Laabs the triple jump . . . Mikayla Brooks made all-conference in golf.

May 26, 2016 – The PHS baseball team beat North Branch 3-0 as Sam Larson improved to 4-1 with a two-hit game . . . Bri Dorr earned all-conference honors in Mississippi 8 girls golf.