My History

By Horace Kenneth Winterer, Sr. (ďMickeyĒ)

(Written around 1968 Ė 1969)

 

 

It was a very cold and windy day in Valley City North Dakota and the snow was piled high against the house, in fact it was a full blizzard on the day I was born, the 24th day of February 1893.At least that is what I have been told.I was a big baby, a full 9 lbs.

 

The memento of my babyhood is a naked picture of me wrapped in a lace curtain.Of this I remember nothing.

 

My first memory was on a trip to Michigan at the home of my cousin Dean, when he pushed me in the pigs swill with all my good clothes on.Till the day of his death I never forgave him for this.My next memory was at the same farm.A large blue racer that was in the long grass chased me.

 

My next memory was at my home in Valley City.We had a tame goose and it seemed larger than I and it kept chasing me and pecking me with his beak.

 

Soon I had a baby brother Galen and a spaniel dog who chewed up all my wooden blocks.

 

It must have been in the spring of 1897 that father and mother left us children at home and went for several months to Alaska bring back for us bows and arrows, which we shot at everything on the place until the feathers were all gone and would no longer shoot.

 

I remember the winters when after a blizzard and the snow was piled high against the house and all over the lower yard that father tunneled out from the front door and gave us the idea for tunnels which we made all over the yard with openings for forts.

 

About this time I was introduced to school and I remember well the blackboard that I got for Christmas.The only trouble with it was that roll on the top it had the alphabet, but it was in German and I was taught to talk in English at home, although all the hired help spoke Swedish and I could understand them well.I shouldnít have worried, as when I went to school the first thing that the teacher did was to put the ABCs on the board in German.The teacher then proceeded to go through the ABCs giving us at the same time the ABCís in English.I guess that was the best way for most of the kids didnít speak English.

 

Among my first memories of school was recess where the children lined up on both sides of the schoolyard and ran from one side to the other seeing if they could do it without being tagged.As I remember it, it was a lot of fun.

 

My memories of home were mostly in the wintertime.I suppose because more time was spent in the house then.The windows would frost up with frost diagrams a half inch thick even though we had storm windows on the outside with but a small slat for air on warm days.That is when the temperature was about zero outside.On cold days it was 40 to 50 degrees below zero.

 

When I was young I had long curls, which I still keep in a box.I was about five when I went to the barbershop and had them cut off, much to the chagrin of my mother.In fact it broke her heart.Father took it philosophically.I still had the curls when we took a trip to California from Valley City going tourist class on the Northern Pacific.We stopped for a little while in San Francisco where my brother Galen and I had our picture taken out by the cliff house.I still have the picture.Then we moved to San Jose where we stayed in a boarding house that was full of stuffed birds.I wonder what happened to all the birds.The whole place stank of camphor to keep the bugs out of the feathers.Then to Santa Cruz where we stayed in a little house by a row of Eucalyptus trees.The smelled nice and had seed pods which we floated in a little stream in the back of the cottages.I donít remember how we got home but we did.

 

When I was in the third grade we spent the winter in San Diego and lived in a little house near the park.The house is still there.We must have been there quite a spell as I was put in school there.I had a good friend there who lived in a big house across the street in back of us.I wish I could remember his name.Our trip out here was on the Roch Island and Southern Pacific.We had a drawing room.I remember we had to stay a long time in the station in St. Louis.It was a large and dirty place all full of soot and cinders.How we returned again I donít remember at all.

 

The next trip to California was to Los Angeles where we stayed in the Hollingbech Hotel, which was in the southwest corner of Spring and Second street.It is now gone.I sold papers for a while till I told my mother about the girls sitting out on the porches in their nightgowns.That stopped that and they were my best customers.After a while we moved out in the sticks at Tenth and Olive street across from a nursery.Again I donít know how we got home but we did.

 

I think about that time that on the Fourth of July father bought me some torpedoes to throw in the ground and they would blow up with a load noise.While father was out making a speak at some Fourth of July picnic I stayed home and took one of them apart and got the cap out and for some reason or other put it in my mouth and bit down on it.It exploded in my mouth and loosened two teeth.Father always said we were both shooting off our mouth.Anyway I suffered a long time from the effects and father listeners got over their suffering sooner.

 

When I was twelve, father decided to give up his law practice in Valley City and move to California for good.So he sold the home place and we moved to the Kindred Hotel to live while he cleared up his businesses.I learned a lot from watching the traveling men who stopped at the hotel.But just before my birthday we were off to California for good.

 

One day in the year before we moved to California my brother Galen and I were invited to a party of kids our age in the house across from the school.I didnít feel well at the party and neither did my brother Galen.When we got home we both had a high fever and mother put us to bed in the upper bedroom in the same bed and called the doctor.Before 10 oíclock Galen was dead.He had choked to death with diphtheria and I could hardly breath.We were both given antitoxin but to late to save Galen.Due to the nature of his sickness he was buried without any funeral in the graveyard on top of the hill, east of Valley City.The other children did not get it as by this time Irving had been born.

 

Before Galen died he and I were pals and gathered arrowheads from the Indian mounds on the hills surrounding the Valley and went swimming in the Cheyenne River across the railroad tracks.I always thought it was a large river but on my return to Valley City years later it had shrunk to a moderate stream.

 

During the early years of my life both mother and father had bikes and would go off riding them in groups all dressed up for the rides in plaids, etc.After the bicycle thrill wore off dad bought a 1900 Oldsmobile one cylinder, curved dash with a whip stock, which we needed.No top but seat that faced backwards.That is where I sat. Once where we were going at the high speed of ten miles per hour over a farm road that was rather rough and I fell off and was run over by the right rear wheel.I yelled my head off but only my feeling were hurt.

 

After a while dad got a new hobby - kites and made all kinds of kites, mostly box types and built a sizable shed out by the back of the house to build them in.This was a lot of fun as the winds in North Dakota are usually strong if somewhat variable.Later yet he changed to inventing a typewriter that worked on an inking pad.He filled out the parts for this in the summer in the shed and in the winter at the top of the stairs near a south window.He got a patent on this typewriter, but I donít think any were built on this patent.I still have the patent papers.

 

Of the friends of my youth I only remember a few.Tommy Bonhus was the closest.He lived in a large house two blocks from us.The house was of the southern estate type and had a broad staircase going upstairs with curved rails around the corners.We used to slide down them.They also had a clothes chute that went from the second floor to the basement that we used to jump down on the dirty clothes below.

 

It was spring after a long and hard winter and most of the snow was gone and by that time they had built up a large pile of manure back of the stables.So Tommy and I climbed to the roof and slid down the roof and landed in the manure pile, which was soft and warm.It was so much fun that we repeated the performance several times, getting very dirty.The part that I remember most was when I got home mother had a cat-of-nine-tails, which consisted of a large piece of rawhide cut in strips about a quarter inch wide and nailed to a short broomstick, and I got the licking of my life and what is worse when father got home he repeated it.

 

When I was about six years old my folks bought me a pair of skates.They were the Dutch type that strapped on and Frankie my cousin who lived across town taught me to skate on the pond back of her home which froze over.Later I got a pair of clamp on skates and we would go over to the river to skate.I though that I was pretty fair but when years later I tried to skate, I cold not stand up.

 

The other children in the neighborhood that I remember are the Nelson boys.On e of them became the president of American Motors.And the boy on the farm across the street, I just canít remember his name.

 

I was very sweet on a little girl name Alma Johnson who was an orphan, but was adopted by a family named Johnson who lived won by my cousins, but across the tracks which kind of divided the town.

 

Tommy Bonhus had a sister who I thought at the time was about a homely as one could get.Her name was Amanda.When she visited Marion and I in Chicago when she was going to Northwestern University she was a raving beauty.She was about 19 then.

 

Father bought my sled with long runners supported at both ends only. Paul Ferguson took me up the hill on the north side of town where all of the kids went with these sleds and we he got me in front.We did all right till we were at the bottom when we hit a boulder and me being in front, I got the full benefit of the blow on my forehead where I had a bad scar for many years.It is gone now or at least you cannot notice it.

 

Vigil was too small to play with and Irving was just a baby.

 

In the summer dad would take the Oldsmobile and go out in the country to visit various farms and one summer he left me for a week or two at the elevator at Oriska about 10 miles east of Valley City on the Soo railroad and I had a lot of fun riding in the grain wagons which were huge wagons pulled by a team.I almost got drowned in flax.On one of these trips I remember well as the Olds did not have any fenders and we went down a hill about 15 miles per hours and hit a muddy place at the bottom and the wheels picked up the gumbo and it all landed on me.

 

The people next door had two pacers.His name was Briggs and I took care of them exercising them and currying them in his front yard and every Sunday that dad would take the Oldsmobile out, Briggs would be waiting for us so that he could race us.We never won.

 

When father was young he was a great hunter and had a double barrel 12-gauge shotgun.One day I took it out on the front porch and put one shell in it, putting it to my shoulder and fired at some blackbirds that were flying north of the house.Pulling the trigger it knocked me flat on my back and I am sure hit no birds.But the people across the street said to father when he got home that I was shooting at them.I doubt if it would have carried that far as our house was set back from the street about 25 yards and the street was 30 yards and their house was set about 30 yards from the street.But anyway I got a licking and I was sore already from the kick of the gun.

 

I remember like it was yesterday one hot summer in Valley City.It was as hot as it could get and the clouds were piled high in the southeast towering way up in the sky.They came over us during the day going to the northwest and then about sunset turning back toward us rolling over and over.Father got all of us in the house and had the whole family go down in the cellar, which was reached by a trap door west of the dining room.Father and I watched the storm gather.The clouds just rolled over and over and the wind blew a full gale and it started to rain. Then a funnel started to form and dad shoved me down in the cellar and followed.The noise from the storm increased to a roar and finally subsided.When we came out of the cellar there was not a shingle on the north side of the house and our grainery was gone, not a stick left and there was a spot in the front yard that looked like it was melted.This was about 2 yards in diameter.This was my first and only tornado.

 

Our house in Valley City North Dakota was set on a square lot one eighth of a mile on a side on the northwest corner of the block on a small rise and it sloped to the south.It had an alley on the east and the south and was fenced to keep the cattle our and us children in.There was a style over the fence on the south side going to the alley and a gate on the east side also going to the alley.

 

The house itself was a typical prairie house, two stories or one and a half on the east part.The dining room and the kitchen were located on the west side and they were only one story.Off the kitchen was a wood shed and off the dining room was a closet like place that was the entrance to the trap door that covered the cellar.The cellar was of stone and about 11 feet deep and served tow purposes.One so that there was a place to store butter in 5 gallon jars, potatoes, vegetables and barrels of apples and the second use was as a cyclone cellar.It was made of cut granite boulders, which were plentiful on the prairie.Cut so that they fit without mortar.When the house was first built this was first and had a sod roof.But that was before I was born.

 

The entrance to the house was off a small porch on the northeast side of the house to the living room.To the east of the living room was mother and fatherís bedroom and to the south was the parlor containing the piano.It was always kept shut.The main piece of furniture in the living room was a Baseburner stove with missing glass windows made of sheets of mica.You put the hard coal in at the top and it burned at the bottom.It was kept burning all winter, being banked at night.The stovepipe went up to a heating drum in the bedroom above.The house was lighted with oil lamps, which didnít give much light by todayís standards.

 

The dining room was a small room with windows on both sides and was heated from the kitchen, which also never went out.At the east end of the dining room was a door that went upstairs to a hall and two bedrooms.Only one of the bedrooms was heated and that by the warming drum from the stove in the living room.The other bedroom only got heat that came up from the stairs from the dining room from the kitchen stove.

 

There was no running water in the house or any sanitary features.On the back porch on the on the south side by the dining room we had a well and a pump also in the kitchen we had a pump by the sink that got water from the cistern.

 

Our bathing facilities consisted of a large wooden tub, which mother filled from the hot water from the kitchen stove.Dumping the dirty water out the back door where in the summer it ran on the garden and in the winter froze to melt to melt in the spring.The furniture was mostly dark oak and the bed had feather mattresses.

 

Once a year our back house got all cleaned out.That was the day after Halloween, when it had to be put back up.There was always a dance downtown and everybody went.One year I got out and helped a little, although I was too small to be much help.We hoisted a small cow up the belfry with block and tackle.That is all I did, was to help pull on the hoisting rope.There were about 50 boys there.We also put a back house against the door to the dance hall.

 

Valley City was a town that liked culture and among the visitors was Teddy Roosevelt, McKinley many others.I remember Teddy because I sat on his lap.Valley City had an opera house such as it was and they had all of these doings at the opera house, writers, singers and political personages.We also had a normal school at Valley School.It was across the river and tracts in the trees by the park.

 

Mother always had help around the house, mostly girls from the country that spoke Swedish.You see on one of the things that dad did was to bring emigrants to North Dakota and sell them railroad land that he and uncle Herman bought from the railroad cheap.So the help came from this source.Dad spoke Swedish, German, Norwegian, French and a darn little Italian.

 

Well the hired girls that came always slept in the cold bedroom and they always brought with them bedbugs and lice.They had to be deloused and everything in the house had to be gone over with carbolic acid to get rid of the bugs.They have got better methods now, you just go over with a spray can.

 

When Fall came father would have the house banked with manure about two feet deep.This would keep the basement warm and the house warmer.When spring came it would be well rotted and mother would grow wonderful flowers where the manure was.In the back yard we grew corn and watermelons and squash.It was my job to keep the weeds out.At least you did not have to water them as the rains came all summer every few days.

 

Father got elected District Attorney and he was always going after blind pigs.I didnít see why, as who would want a blind pig, but it seemed that there was a lot of them in Barnes County.Also the railroad was always shipping a lot of books into Valley City, to help the culture I suppose.When dadís term was over he broke up partnership with uncle Herman and moved to California.

 

On Christmas and Thanksgiving we either went down to uncle Hermanís house or they came up to ours, a distance of about 2 miles.So everyone got in the sled with the horse with bells on and off we went jingling all the way.For Thanksgiving Aunt Emma would have turkey on one platter and goose on the other.Uncle Herman had four girls and dad had four boys.So there were a lot who sat down to the table to eat.It was the same on Christmas, except that there were a lot of presents and a Christmas tree with candled lights.There were lit tight after dinner and kept burning till all of the presents were given out.My cousins were Florence the older, Francisco, called Frankie, Hermoine and Harriet youngest.

 

It was at one of these Christmases that I got my first pair of skates and the pond back of their house that Frankie taught me to skate.

 

Well we moved to California and for a while after we got there we stayed at a boarding house on Whittier street, just a block from seventh across the street from the home of the Stanton boys who I was to meet again later at Harvard school.This boarding house was run by a friend of the family by the name of Parkinghouse.She was a widow.In California you canít skate on ice because there isnít any, but you could skate on roller skates and that we did going up and down the hills of that neighborhood even as far as West Lake Park, which was in its glory then.The old house is still standing as the urban development has not reached it yet but it is in a very poor state of repair.

 

After about six months there we moved to a new home that father bought in Hollywood on Orange Drive.It was in the Ocean view tract one block west of the Hollywood Hotel and cost father 5,000.00 dollars. It was a Dirt street with a row of eucalyptus trees on the south side of our house separating our yard from the Fergusons yard to the south.The number was 127 Orange Drive.And it is where Father lived until his death.The Street car from Los Angeles ran on Prospect St a block from the house every hour.And I was send to the Pass school on Selma ave.Now called the Selma school and entered the 7 grade. I walked to school which was only about a mile and a half going through the Catholic church grounds on the way to school whos walks were lined with large Daisy bushes, I met and went around with the boys in the neighborhood who were Pete Hill, Pogson Ray and Leslie Summersz and played tennis on the courts of the Hollywood Hotel with Gladys Kratz.The Summers twins, Dorothy Kissingbury, Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Pogson and Ester Fry.

 

The Grass family who lived at La Brea Ave and Prospect were in my class but older, The Kimbell family which lived on my street were younger and the Claypool boys were there sometimes.They lived on Sycamore one block west.

 

My special friend was Leslie Summers they lived up on Highland Ave where the American Legion Building is now.They later moved to where the Hollywood freeway cuts through the hill going from Cahuengua pass to Hollywood Sirrella Shoning lives where The Chinese Theater now is and two boys from the East Cousins of Sirellas.†† It was in The Jones barn, Sirrella home that we put up two trapeasees and had quite an act falling if we missed in the hay below.I took care of Sirellas Shetland ponies for the privilege of having the trapeze in the barn loft.She would dress up and go pony riding every afternoon or so it seemed.

 

While I was going at the time with Gladys Kratz some of the other kids in the neighborhood were Mae Marsh who later married a movie producer and who just died this year 1968.Dorothy Kissingbury who married about 1917 and died two years later.

 

We played in seep run in the evening doing all over Hollywood, which was but a small town at the time.

 

When it came time to graduate from grammar school the graduation exercises were held up over a store on the corner of Cahuenga and Prospect, now Hollywood Blvd.Nobody of my family came to the graduation.I know that I was quite disappointed about this.

 

The next year I enrolled at the Hollywood High School which was for the first year in its new building at the corner of Highland and Sunset they previously had held it over a store on North Highland near Ranklin.

 

The principal was a friend of fathers and after some time because of my poor spelling and general deportment I was packed away to the Harvard Military school on the corner of 16th and western.I got to go home every other weekend.For this I had to take the street car down town and then transfer to the Hollywood line which took about a hour and a half if you were lucky.The worst thing about boarding school was the fact that I had to go to study hall for two hours every evening.We marched in and out again and had a teacher to see that we were busy all of the time.After I was there some time some of the boys put pennies in some of the light sockets so when the lights would go on the fuse would blow and we couldnít see the study Barnes a Professor who is still living cured by making us sit in the dark for the whole period.

 

I had a room alone at Harvard on the Southwest corner of the building on the second floor.It had to be cleaned up every morning before breakfast and after exercises in the yard.It was then inspected by Mr. Barnes, who knew just where to look for hidden dirt.He kicked back the rugs to see that there was no dust there and looked in the drawers to see that they were neat.

 

He had to go through a lot we put a bucket full of water over the door to his room and he got a shower when he got back that evening.

 

I was blamed for that but I just had a small part I got the bucket from the kitchen.

 

Later I got interested in the rifle team and we had practice twice a week. I also got interested in track but never did much in that due to the fact that the two Stanton brothers were also at the school and they broke almost all of the existing records.Later Ruby Footfall and I made the team on that.I had a lot of fun playing footfall and one game in particular.We played at Hollywood where I played opposite to Pete Hill who lived at Highland and Franklin and I had a running friend with him having a fight almost every time I got home from school.That was a pretty rough game as Pete was trying to smear me and I the same to him. Anyway we won.In fact that year we beat USC, which was a small school, then and got the Championship of the small schools in the Southwest.

 

My father gave me a post card size Kodak and I took a lot of pictures of the kids developing them and printing them when I went home and selling them to the boys at school.I made quite a little money this way, which I saved.

 

After I was there I was made an officer of the school corps and Father bought me a sword to carry.I was First Lt. when I graduated.

 

My Folks were traveling in Europe when I graduated and so only my Brother Virgil came to the ceremony everybody else had all there relations.I had passes the entrance examinations to Harvard University before I left school but in the fall in the absence of my parents decided to go the University of California at Berkley.