Richard Lingwall part 1
Posted By: Nathan Lingwall (email)
Date: 8/2/2013 at 10:42:51
by Richard Lingwall
As I get older I realize that there are many questions I wish I had asked my parents about their youth and young adult years. Neither of them talked much about their youth, and I didn’t ask the questions I now wish I had asked. Therefore I will write some of my memories so my family will not have those same questions.
William Rueben Lingwall
My father, William Rueben Lingwall was born in Stromsburg, Nebraska, (now considered to be the Swedish capital of Nebraska), on December 15, 1904. His parents, Frank and Selma, both immigrated from Sweden, and he was number four in the line of nine surviving brothers and sisters. He completed some education, but I’m not sure if it was past the 8th grade. He worked on the farm and also as a cowboy. We still have and play the guitar he played when he was growing up. He came to Harcourt, Iowa in 1928 to work on the farm of his uncle and aunt, Arthur and Esther Johnson. . Dad worked on the farm picking corn and other farm activities for a year, then worked on the railroad for a time. In 1931 he opened the Lingwall Standard Station down on the highway which he owned for six years. It was in Harcourt that he met Leona Roseanna Swanson.
Leona Roseanna Swanson
My mother, Leona Roseanna Swanson, was born on the home farm near Harcourt on December 16, 1900, and joined a family of six older brothers. Her mother, Hulda Charlotte Swanson, died three years later in childbirth. This left father Charles August Swanson to care for seven children ranging in age from 3 to 18 and to run the farm. Charles immigrated here from Sweden, and Hulda’s parents both came from Sweden, so I am a full-blooded Swede. Leona went to country school, then high school in town, but I’m not sure if she graduated. When she was 23 Charles bought a house in town and he and Leona moved, leaving Wesley to run the farm. Leona worked in the post office off and on for forty years, which is where she met William, better known as Bill. (Only Aunt Esther called him William.) They were married on August 16, 1933 at the home of brother Oscar Swanson, and lived with Charles in Harcourt until his death on October 16, 1939.
Richard William Lingwall
I was born a few minutes after midnight on August 1, 1938 in Fort Dodge, just 17 miles north of Harcourt. My earliest childhood memory that I can pinpoint is being in the kitchen and saying good-by to Dad as he left for Hastings, Nebraska in May of 1942 to work in the Navy ammunition depot which was making ammunition for World War II.. Dad was a carpenter and made crates in which to ship the torpedoes and smaller ammunition. Mother and I went out by train to join him in July, and for a short while we lived in the basement of my uncle Ed’s home. Many families were moving to Hastings to work at the ammunition depot, and there was a building boom for housing. We moved into a new two bedroom home at 739 E. 4th St. I attended Kindergarten and First Grade in Hastings, and we lived close enough that I could walk to school. My kindergarten teacher, Miss Savory, was the sweetest, kindest teacher, as are all kindergarten teachers, and I loved school. Of course I only remember playing and taking naps on the rugs we brought from home.
One cold snowy morning we awoke to find a paper sack on our front steps with a little black puppy shivering inside. We suddenly became the owners of a new puppy, Scotty, who we had for the next nine years. One summer Sunday afternoon we were getting in the car to go to a band concert in the park when I slammed my hand in the car door. This must have been a traumatic experience because I can still visualize it. At the time the worst part of it was that we couldn’t go to the concert. My left thumbnail is still slightly deformed and a small piece of the old nail grows under the new nail.
One of the best things about living in Hastings was that I had two sets of uncles and aunts, and two male cousins to play with. Clinton McDonald was just 11 days younger than I. We went to the same school and had a great time together. Their home was our headquarters for many years of visiting in Hastings. Forrest Lingwall was four years older, so did not play much with us.
One day at school there was a tremendously loud “BOOM” and some windows in our classroom came crashing in. There had been an explosion at the ammunition depot. Ambulances went racing by, we could see the billows of smoke in the east, and school was let out. We were very anxious until we found out that Dad was okey. This was a major event which is still talked about, some 60 years later, in Hastings.
I also remember coming home from school one April day in 1945 and Mother was sitting by the radio crying. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died. The war ended shortly after this, and we moved back to Harcourt in the summer. Quite a change moving from a city (large to me) to a town of 350 people. Before moving to Hastings my folks
brought their valuable papers, possession, etc. out to Oscar Swanson’s home for safe keeping. Unfortunately, while we were gone his home burned to the ground destroying everything. So much for safekeeping!
In Harcourt, the entire school, K-12, was in one building, and there were two grades in a room. There were minor changes in class size, but my class remained around 13 all through school. School began, I was in second grade, and had another wonderful teacher, Miss Gordon. In a small town everyone knows everything, so written communication was sometimes lacking. I went home for lunch every day, why I don’t know as they served good
hot lunches at school, (great aunt Alma was one of the cooks) and when I came back the afternoon classes were already in session. The teacher never said anything, but I finally learned that the lunch period was only 30 minutes long, and we had thought it was an hour. Small problem soon straightened out. This is one of few memories of second grade, and I pretty much sailed through the rest of elementary school. I liked to read, so always had a book in my desk at school and one at home that I would be reading.
I began taking piano lessons from Mrs. J. E. (Hattie) Swanson (no relation). She came down from Ft. Dodge and taught in the school on Saturdays. I still have my first recital piece, “Yellow Buttercups”, and the recital program. Later on she taught in our house, and I got free lessons, which was a good deal. I can still see her in her big black Buick Roadmaster. By Jr. High she no longer came down, so we had to go to her home in Ft. Dodge. She had two grand pianos in her living room, and that completely filled the room. I gave a piano recital the summer between my junior and senior year and had printed programs, ushers, and everything. When I was a senior in high school she gave me free lessons so that I could take pipe organ lessons at the Methodist Church in Ft. Dodge from Leda Everson. What a powerful instrument! That was the beginning of a life-long love for the pipe organ. The Lutheran Church in Harcourt had a large electronic organ with a full pedal keyboard, much better than the little Hammond spinet in our Methodist Church, and I asked if I might practice on this. Because I was not Lutheran the pastor denied my request saying that it would not be proper for a non-Lutheran to be playing their instrument. Consequently I drove the ten miles to Boxholm two or three times a week to practice on the Methodist organ there.
In fifth grade I started playing a band instrument, a trombone. A year earlier we had had an assembly where there was an excellent clarinet player, and I then decided I wanted to play the clarinet, but that was not to be. I have never regretted the change. Almost everyone started an instrument, but some didn’t last very long. Our music was pretty pathetic. The owner of the music store in Ft. Dodge was Karl L. King, who had somewhat the same background as John Philip Sousa. He was called “The March King” and had written many books of band music, most relatively easy and equally boring. Much of the music we played was from King books. After high school I never played a Karl King composition again. I practiced piano faithfully, generally before school, and started out practicing trombone regularly. My favorite place to practice was in the bathroom, sitting on the throne with my music propped up on the lavatory. The acoustics were fantastic!
When I was ten years old and in the fifth grade my grandmother passed away on October 24, 1948. She lived in Hastings and had been suffering from stomach cancer. This was my first experience with cancer, death, and a funeral home. It was not an easy experience. For the first time, I could not sleep. The house, Aunt Ole’s, was full of people and the kids were sleeping on the dining room floor. Aunt Ole gave me some warm milk, awful stuff, and it didn’t help. Finally fatigue took over and I went to sleep.
Getting back to school, I progressed onto Jr. High, contained in one room in the elementary half of the building. Again I had a wonderful teacher, Evelyn Peterson, unmarried, whose love was education and sports. I preferred the education part. We now explored some major writing assignments, and I found that I liked these.
We were basically very poor, as were most other families. In high school only two boys had cars, and they were both “rich” farmers. My wardrobe was very limited, and during the week I would wear one shirt for three days and another the remaining two. My mom
made some of my shirts, and one day in sixth grade I wore a shirt she had made from an old dress. That same day a girl in my class wore a skirt out of that same material. How embarrassing! I never wore that shirt again.
While in Jr. High our beloved Scotty died. He was terribly afraid of thunder and lightning, as are many dogs. One time we were gone during a thunderstorm and Scotty took refuge under the neighbor’s car. Not knowing that he was there, they backed out and over him. We couldn’t be without a dog for long, and Dad had seen an ad for an English Bulldog. We got Topsy, a white bulldog puppy, and as cute as could be. This began several years of raising English Bulldogs and a lifelong love of the breed. In the evening all my parents had to say was, “Dick, it’s time for bed”, and Topsy would go tearing for the stairs, ready to race me up to bed. After they could no longer take care of the bulldogs my parents sold all six bulldogs and got a pug, Misty.
In high school we got to go from room to room for classes. Wow! Four classrooms and a study hall. Leone Richardson, the band director, also taught all music K-12, high school English, and Home Economics. In her spare time she was Jr. Class sponsor and directed the class plays. We varied from 4 to 6 teachers, which included the Superintendent and Principal. I always liked English and literature. Also enjoyed typing: 115 words a minute on a manual typewriter. I attributed my strong, fast fingers to years of piano playing. I liked shop class and built several pieces of furniture, including a small cabinet for music storage which we used until a few years ago and now is still used by Nathan and Kendra.
In a small school everyone does everything. I even played basketball. We had the Jr. Class play and the Sr. Class play, both directed by the versatile Mrs. Richardson. The main prerequisite for selecting the play was that it had as many characters as the class had members. I was never very comfortable acting. Between acts there was always a musical number, and this was more my style. I played a good number of piano and trombone solos between acts. Mrs. Richardson also brought some of us to Des Moines every year to play on KRNT Radio. This was fun to go to the big city.
During my Sophomore and Junior years I was piano accompanist for a Swedish Men’s Chorus in Ft. Dodge. This was a good experience learning how to accompany and follow. I also received $2.00 a rehearsal. Big money! I rode to Ft. Dodge with the members from Harcourt and Dayton, and after the rehearsal they liked to stop for coffee and a hamburger. A restaurant hamburger was a real treat for me. No McDonalds or Burger King back then.
During my senior year I was editor of the Annual. One doesn’t realize how much work goes into a project like this until they are actively involved with it. I can still smell the rubber cement used to glue everything to the pages. An important event of the Junior and Senior years was the Jr.-Sr. Prom. In my case it was the Jr. Sr. Banquet. The girls dressed up in their formals and the boys in their best (only) suit. We then boarded the school bus and went to Ft. Dodge to a hotel and had a fancy dinner. After dinner we went to a movie, then back on the school bus for the return trip. No dates, no dancing, but we had a good time. Harcourt had three churches, and everyone went to church. Dancing was a sin and was forbidden. I was a Methodist, and drinking was also forbidden. Communion “wine” was grape juice, and my mother didn’t have her first taste of wine until a California trip after her retirement.
Church was a very important part of our life. Both parents sang in church choir,
directed by Cy Nordbloom, Mother’s cousin. Dad was Sunday School Superintendent for many years and Mother taught a Sunday School class. Both had been on Church Council and Mother was active in the W.S.C.S. (Women’s Society of Christian Service). I began playing the piano for Sunday School when I was 11 and started playing the organ for church when I was in Jr. High. This continued off and on for the next fifty years.
When I was fourteen I began working with my dad as a carpenter during summer vacations. During this time most of his work was remodeling and fixing farm buildings. Shingling was also plentiful, and I only fell off a roof once. I was carrying a bundle of shingles on my shoulder up a long ladder which evidently was too steep. I fell off backwards. Fortunately I was not hurt, but I was very careful after that. We built the house next door north of us, and another new house we built started as a boxcar. I continued working summers through college.
Our house sat on a lot that was three/fourths of the block, and it went back to the Interurban (railroad) tracks in back. All this land was used for a variety of purposes, but it gave me a large area to play in and have adventures. We had a large garden north of the house, and one day I was out there weeding, or playing, and I stepped on a large black snake, barefoot. I found that I could run very fast. I have not been fond of snakes ever since that experience. There were always plenty of boys my age to play with in our neighborhood, in fact almost every house had a boy living there at one time or another. There was a farm across the street to the south, with a boy, and we played in the hay in the barn. A pasture was a good place to play baseball, with dried cowpies sometimes serving as bases. In the winter the snow would melt , run into low places, then freeze again. We would shovel the snow off the ice and go ice skating.
I mentioned the Interurban. This was a railroad between Ft. Dodge and Des Moines. There were trolley cars that went by every two hours or so, and we could go to Ft. Dodge for a day of shopping, or go to Des Moines. I had an uncle and aunt who lived southeast of Boxholm, and I could get on the trolley and get off about a mile from their place. They would pick me up, then bring me back to the trolley at the end of the day. I was so brave to do that by myself! There were also two or three freight trains a day. One gets used to the sound of the trains, and they really didn’t bother at all. At night the sound was soothing, and I liked to go to sleep to the sound of a train.
From our house we could see Lost Grove, a small grove of trees on a little knoll in the middle of a field. In the days before the area was settled this grove was surrounded by water or marsh land. When the prairie fires came through, the trees were spared. The township was named Lost Grove Township as was the area cemetery. My parents are buried in Lost Grove Cemetery, west of town. It was always fun to walk the rails , climb the fence and go through the field to Lost Grove. This was used as a pasture, so we always had to be careful that the bull wasn’t out.
Family and relatives were a big part of our lives. Great Aunt Esther was more of a “grandmother” to me than my real grandmother, who lived 300 miles away. I was down there two, three or more times a week to help her with odd jobs or just to see her. The National Geographic was our favorite magazine, and the discovery of the platypus article and pictures was exciting. Not until our recent trip to Australia did I finally see a live platypus. As she aged my parents became more involved in her care, and she spent her last few years bedfast in a nursing home.
Cousin Cy and Albertine Nordbloom lived in town, worked in the post office with Mother, and went to the same church. He took pride in raising gladiolas and working with wood. We have a grandmothers clock he made for Mother and a set of blocks he made for Nathan and Stephen. Four of Mother’s brothers were farmers in the immediate area and three went to our church, so on Sunday we either had company for dinner or went to one of their homes.
Holidays were big in our family, especially Christmas. We always had a live tree and the whole house was decorated. Christmas Eve was always at our house with Great Aunts Esther and Alma. Later on Herbert and Agnes, and sometimes Wesley and Ardy. We always had traditional Swedish food like potato bologna (I can’t find the spelling for the Swedish name we called it), lutefisk (dried cod prepared with lye and served in a cream sauce. The smell is terrible, but it doesn’t taste too bad), rye bread, pickled herring, bond-ost (cheese) and ostakaka ( a custard like pudding) with lingon berries for dessert. In addition we generally had roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, two vegetables, and a Christmas jello salad. We opened gifts after dinner, then went to church for the 11:00 p.m. Julota service. Staying awake was sometimes a problem for me. I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Clause, so sleeping late on Christmas Day was no problem. We went to Aunt Esther’s for Christmas dinner at noon and had another feast with some of the same Swedish food. Almost everyone in Harcourt was Swedish, so these were common foods and the ingredients easily obtainable. The week between Christmas and New Years was always a time for getting together with other relatives for dinner and celebrating. New Years Eve was spent at church with the New Years Wake at 11:00p.m.
Easter Sunday was another big day and we always had an Easter lily at home. The aroma permeated the entire house. People brought their lilies to church, and sometimes the entire front was filled with lilies. Easter was also the time for all the ladies to have a new dress and hat. Yes, ladies wore hats to church and anytime they dressed up. The day began early with a sunrise service for the youth of all three churches followed by a breakfast. Then there was just time to go home and get ready for Sunday School and church. Easter dinner was always at Aunt Esther’s with roast leg of lamb and mint jelly. Mothers Day was another big day and Mother always got an orchid corsage, the big kind. Very few ladies in church that day did not have a corsage. We would go out to dinner after church, usually to Trelors in Ft. Dodge. Fathers Day was observed with a card and a box of candy, definitely an anticlimax after Mothers Day. The Fourth of July was exciting as Gowrie, seven miles to the west, always had a big celebration: a parade in the morning, dinner in the park, and a carnival in the afternoon and evening, followed by fireworks. They still celebrate big in Gowrie. Labor Day was a big day in Dayton, seven miles to the east. They had a three day rodeo that also included a parade and a carnival. Small towns know how to celebrate a holiday! On Thanksgiving we sometimes went to aunt and uncle Esther and Gerrald Danskin’s in Norfolk, Nebraska. Frequently the snow drifts were above the car along the roadside. Thanksgiving was a holiday in its own right, and no one even thought about Christmas until a week or so later. Birthdays were also celebrated with parties and relatives. Presents too! My parents’ birthdays were December 15 and 16, so we generally celebrated them together, and I always baked and decorated a cake.
Vacations were generally to visit Lingwall family members in Nebraska, and there were a number of family reunions where all members of the original nine and their families
were present. These were always fun as there were several kids my age. As we went to visit relatives, they also visited us. That seemed to be the main reason to travel. There were three
or four times when we did take a vacation to a lake, either Storm Lake or Lake Okoboji. The cabins we stayed in at Okoboji are still there, 60 years later, remodeled slightly, and owned by the same family.
Our home was a very calm, peaceful environment. I don’t recall my parents ever arguing, and we never yelled at each other. They were always at home in the evenings except for the Thursday evening choir practice ( I always went along). On the rare occasions that I needed a baby sitter Aunt Ester came over. Although ours was a very loving home, I don’t remember my parents ever telling me that they loved me, or me them. Good Swedish stoicism. We showed love through every day actions and living. There is an “Ole and Lena” joke that sort of sums up my attitude. Ole says to Lena, “Lena, I love you so much that sometimes I can hardly keep from telling you.” I’m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words.
My grandfather Lingwall had been in declining physical health for some time, but more disturbing was his declining mental health. Now we would probably say he had Alzheimer disease. He passed away on May 6, 1956. Now I had a terrible decision to make. We had a band concert on the day of the funeral and I was one of the leaders in the band. I reasoned that my grandfather was gone and there was nothing I could do for him, but I could help the band, so I chose to not attend the funeral.
High School graduation came, and it was especially memorable for me because Uncle Ray, President of the Lutheran Church Augustana Synod, gave the Commencement address. I remember he told us how important education was, and he was especially proud that he was Salutatorian of his high school graduating class. Of course, there were only two members in the class. I was third in my class of thirteen, and the top two became university professors with doctorate degrees.
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