ElkFarm Stories

A Daily Dose of Writing

Category: Amery Free Press Column

That Amazing Season, Summertime

(Recent Amery Free Press Column)
Growing up around Amery I found out that I could write my own ticket for what to do on a summer day. Not a bad ticket but a good one, an open ticket.
Both west of Amery by Donald Johnson’s farm and east of Amery near the Howard Stindle farm, many choices available.
But I’d like to sum up more memories from Jack Harkness who reveled, not rebelled, in the Amery culture.
Biking everywhere, beach swimming and lessons including water safety, and organized summer baseball. Fishing in Apple River or one of the lakes, and daily newspaper routes. The St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Tribune bundles arrived at the Amery Hotel, and Jack and Greg T. delivered them.
The A and W Root Beer stand attracted all ages of kids, with root beer floats, hot dogs, quarts of root beer, and hot beef sandwiches.

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The Amery Homefront, World War II

Victory Gardens were common; this is a file photo, not from Amery.

German soldiers arriving on the Soo Line Railroad, getting off at the Amery Depot and taking over the city. What was that? It was the nightmare of a young teen living in Amery during World War 2.
Barbara Burman, now Barbara Preble living in Prospect Heights, Illinois, sent two pages of typed notes to me, filled with WW II Amery memories. And what readings those pages were, sharing feelings, sights, and key Amery locations from 75 years earlier. She’s the daughter of the late John Burman.
On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, Barbara and her family had been dining with relatives in St. Paul. After the initial news, she remembers parking within sight of the Mississippi River and listening to further reports on their car radio.
Throughout the war, posters that inspired and warned were seen all over Amery. “Loose Lips Sink Ships”, “I Want You” from Uncle Sam, and “Remember Pearl Harbor”. “Buy War Bonds” was also a common appeal.
Visible reminders to her of the war effort were victory gardens, coupons for food and goods, and foil collection for the government. An aunt with a certain type of hair had it cut, to be donated it to the government to make parachutes.

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Looking Back at Amery in the ’60s

This writing was a column in the Amery Free Press the week of May 15th, 2017. (Amery Wisconsin, Polk County)

“I am going to remember Amery and some of the lingering memories of a Wisconsin community that is the epitome of small town Americana.” This from Jack Harkness, AHS class of 66, Navy veteran, later high school history teacher living in Washington state. In fact he told me on more than one occasion that he used the Amery experience to connect with his class, telling them about the idea of community.
Jack wrote to me a couple years ago with an overall view of the good of Amery and followed that with memories from each of the four seasons. His recollections covered a broad variety of Amery events such as living on Arch Street with natural playgrounds galore in the undeveloped lots. And proximity to the Catholic Church made his mother happy.
The Harkness family moved from Cumberland in the late 50s, his father heading the Land O’ Lakes at the Amery Super Locker Company. Jack’s mother was a nurse at the Amery Hospital.
Memories from Jack include riding bikes or walking everywhere, everything seemed accessible. One New Years Eve party at his place had many of us later walking the streets in search of other parties, and ending up on Broadway on the east side.
He liked the idea that all the school levels were in one building, and that the city was bordered by woods, the Apple River, and the three lakes. In no time at all a person could bike to the surrounding farmland and country.

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Dirt Track Racing in Amery

Column for the Amery Free Press. Racing in the 50s and 60s north of Amery, WI, created a number of memories for local racers and fans. What made the track special? It wasn’t flat, and that created a number of variables to the contests.

Received a great email from Raymond Mork whose car PP gave Niles Framsted a chuckle when he announced it at the races. Raymond and Wayne Macarthy didn’t miss a Saturday night at the races.
The start of the process began with picking up a car for $25, maybe $40, to take to the Framsted farm to weld in roll bars. Niles was most helpful, doing what he could to get them in running condition.
The goal of many drivers happened on roll-over night, the first roll-over winning a prize of $10, sometimes $25. The track had a unique design, not flat but hilly, and the momentum of coming down the slopes meant speed galore. Roll-overs often resulted. Niles promoted it that way, declaring that anyone could race on a flat track. “Try the Framsted Race Track to test your driving skills.”
There’ll be more on the Framsted Track as stories come in.

The Pilfered Ring

Why the word pilfered? Because it’s a gentler word than stolen. But I did steal it.
At a home in Amery where my parents and friends had coffee and conversation one Sunday afternoon, we kids hung out in the bedroom. In this room there was very little to play with, but there was a jewelry box. Lovely jewelry, piles, and maybe a little gold and silver.
Ten years old, I could have written a brochure on immaturity. Then the theft. Sneaking the lovely, shiny ring out of the jewelry box and into my pocket, I had no idea what I’d do with it. Of the three kids playing that day, I was the only thief.
Mom and Polly Linden had been friends in teacher training in Polk County Normal, and they were bosom buddies, sister-like.
Two days later, at suppertime, Mom answered the phone. She was talking to Polly, and as she spoke she looked over at me. When she hung up, she asked point blank if I had stolen anything. Polly had discovered a ring missing, and Mom grilled me about it. At first I denied it, but that didn’t last long. Admitting to the act, she told me to get it. Up to my room I went, and soon brought it down. That, I thought, might be the end of it. But no.

(this was written as a recent column in The Amery Free Press)

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To High School in a Sleigh

Sunday afternoon, time for me to head back to college in the late 60s. The weekend was over, back at it. For me at 20 years old I felt that “back to work” anxiety that many of you might feel on Sunday night.
My mom probably felt that same way when she attended Amery High School, but in her case she was 15 years old. During the weekdays of the school year she’d stay with a family in a house on Harriman, across from the current telephone company office. The walk for Mom from this boarding house to the high school would be less than 5 minutes.
Emma Larson, one of 8 siblings living on the Larson farm north of Apple River Park School on E, decided that after 8th grade graduation she’d attend high school. Emma alone in her family did this, spurred on by a love of reading and learning, and anxious to become a teacher. She attended for 4 school years, graduating in 1927 with a class of about 30 students.
When I picture her riding back and forth to her home by sleigh or wagon, I tried to imagine what it was like. On Friday afternoon I could see Grandpa Ole Larson, during the winter months, hitching his workhorses to a sleigh. After noon he’d head south with piles of blankets and a few other necessities to drive to Amery and pick up his daughter.

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Making Money in Early Amery

Amery Depot in 1908, viewing west. Soo Line Railroad.

Logs coming down the Apple River passed through Amery, but later it was the two sawmills on the west bank of the river that built the city. These sawmills were roughly in the area of the current dam and northward through to Birch Street.
A disjointed but somewhat complete history of the Amery area came from Smoky Sylvester, who wrote a thorough history in 1977. He penned it on notebook paper, single spaced, 127 pages long. My efforts so far have been to sort out the economics of the Amery region.
Of course farming dominated the economy of the Polk County and Amery area, but the following money-making ventures stood apart from farm work.
The two sawmills above expanded around the time the railroad came to Amery and the population grew. Before this, the settlement west of Amery called Lincoln Center near Bear Trap thrived. This was an economic spot with a hotel, stores, and if you can believe it, a house made just for cats (wink wink).

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Cane Poles and a Hardware Store

Amery sign in the downtown area

Amery Free Press Column

While traveling in western North Carolina, twice we came upon the strange sight of patches of bamboo growing next to the road. The intense yellow of the stalk and the green green of the leaves were unmistakable, and there they were—bamboo growing in March along a Carolina highway.
Just a couple weeks earlier I had been thinking of the Coast to Coast store on the main intersection of Amery, across from Chet’s Drug Store. Just to the left of the door were cane poles, bamboo poles reaching 12 feet into the air and held in by two metal bands attached to brick.

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