years ago, my dad and my two brothers decided to make a pilgrimage to
For years dad told wonderful and sometimes sad stories of these early years, teaching in a one room schoolhouse, leaving his car on the road for a winter until the thaw came in the spring, living in a bed bug infested house, climbing under the schoolhouse, pretending it was a cave, etc.
When the pilgrimage got put off for a year, dad’s sister Pat, her daughter Lynette, and I invited ourselves along.
The following is a chronological breakdown of the trip. Dad’s stories are in parenthesis.
Our big excursion was to Brayton. Brayton was the town where dad spent his childhood. I am not sure what I expected. In my mind I already had this vision gleaned from things I had seen before in photos. But in actuality it was so different. When dad was there, it was a going concern. Farming was big. But the depression was a very difficult time, and people could not make a go of farming.
As we pulled into the main street (and really the only street), we piled out of the van as soon as it stopped. The town was a block long. The only open business was the post office. But there was Great Grandpa’s Hardware Store all boarded up, the pool hall barely standing, and the town hall missing its upper level. Where was the thriving community of the 1920s, and dad skating up and down the street?. What happened?
moved to the town of
This was in 1923 and being a pretty nice house my mother had gatherings of ladies there.
I remember the time they all bobbed their hair and I was very disappointed because my mother had beautiful long hair down her back. They decided to make things out of rubber inner tubes and put beads on them. They made purses and bags and necklaces. They all got together to make these things.
One time she had the group of ladies there who brought all their little kids and some of the kids were older than I was. One of them thought they would pull a trick on me. We had chickens. We had some hamburgers the mothers were making and some of the older kids put chicken manure on the hamburger, which they gave to me. I remember biting into it and they all laughed.
Brayton looked like
a movie set of a ghost town. Things were
just boarded up or falling down. As we
stood in the middle of the road talking, a woman got out of her car and went
into the post office. We could see she
was real curious and when we went into the post office she told us, “I couldn’t
figure out why anyone would want to take photos of Brayton!” Roger talked the postmistress out of pens
that had Brayton,
(My grandfather ran a hardware and implement business. My dad worked in there when we lived in the little house. He worked for his dad in the hardware store, selling machinery, binders, and trucks to the farmers, putting them together and so forth.
These were the days when I started roller-skating. Man I loved to roller skate up and down the sidewalk and sing. Can’t remember the song now. Something about the “last time on the back porch, I loved her best of all!” I’d sing and skate up and down. Everybody thought I was a kook. I was just a kid. One time I came around the corner in my coaster wagon real fast by the back door of the bank. I hit the banker and knocked him down. I never forgot that. I really felt bad but there wasn’t anything I could do about it cause I hit him and that was it.
Nellie’s pool hall was the
local hangout for the older men. So,
that the small town wouldn’t know, he and a group of his customers had located
a nice hideout in the timber along the
then tried to find the academy where older kids went to school. We drove across the
This became a real exciting period in my life because I started school in the Brayton system. It was an old school built in the civil war days on a foundation of limestone rock.
about 1923, there was a guy that was going to get married in
What a surprise to see the buildings of dad’s stories. And here were the rocks at the base of the school where he and his friends crawled underneath, pretending they were Floyd Collins. Behind this civil war era school was a majestic looking oak. I brought back seeds to plant.
The old home place, what a surprise for dad. It has fallen on hard times. The lady of the house was there and did let us in. We found a painting of a horse that dad’s great grandfather had painted on the wall. The stairs had little metal triangles in the corner. These are called dust catchers. Dad showed us the hired girl’s room, and where he and Lyle slept. Outside we found the entrance to the cave. (This was used for storage and for protection when tornados came.) The summer kitchen was still standing. This was used to cook food, so that the heat would not enter the house. The old barn was still there but certainly will not last much longer. Dad says it was built in the late 1800s. He was very disappointed as the home place used to be such a showplace.
To the east we had an old
fashioned windmill, a quarter mile down the hill, which pumped water up the
hill to the wooden supply tank by the house.
The wooden supply tank was made of wood from Port
I remember when I was about two
years old, Uncle Thorvald was called up for the draft
because World War 1 was going on and he had to leave on the train. My dad held me as the train pulled out and he
(Thorvald) waved good-bye. My mother says I shouldn’t be able to
remember this because I wasn’t old enough.
But I remember distinctly his waving and my waving back. He went to
My paternal Grandfather Hans
Christian Hansen was a sailor on a sailing ship for about thirty years working
out of Sonderborg and employed as a ships carpenter
and a surgeon. He sailed to many
seaports around the world several times.
He wanted to leave
At one time the cemetery had a church in the center. It was torn down in the 1960s. The cemetery was small and it was hard to picture a building in the middle of it. How unique it seemed that this small community thrived here. Our grandparents come directly to the Brayton vicinity. How did my great grandfather feel not having the rolling deck under his feet, but rolling “waves of grain?”
We did grave rubbings using black paper and a gold rubbing crayon. We did one of his great grandparents and the Danish brotherhood symbol at the top. About two miles down the road from here is where dad taught school. The building is no longer standing.
then drove up to Elk Horn and pulled into the Danish Restaurant. This “gentle
All of us figured that if we needed something we would use our debit card or credit card. What a surprise, these small towns do not take them, but they would take our check!
wind has finally died down. In fact it
is kind of cold today. We decided to
As we drove, dad mentioned that his Grandpa Anderson was driving on this road in a horse and buggy and a car hit him. He was thrown into a cornfield and his intestines were ripped open. He only lived for two weeks after this.
ended up spending the afternoon in Walnut.
I stood in the middle of the paved brick road several times because
there is almost no traffic. Rick and Rog constantly disappeared in their search for
antiques. We finally headed back to the
Hitchcock house, as it was open. We saw
where slaves were hidden in the basement.
There had been what looked like shelves that pivoted and the runaway
slaves would be hidden behind this.
There were areas in the house where I saw through the floor to the
basement and when people walked across the floor I felt the movement quite
strongly. Off to the south I saw the
path that the
Latter Day Saints took in their trek to
finally made it to
I asked dad why people seemed to move around so much. He said it was because of the depression. No one could afford to own a house, so they rented. If the landlord found someone who could pay more, out you went. Dad said a lot of the landowners were Germans.
Dad showed us the location of the “bed bug house.” This is the house they rented that was so full of bed bugs when they first brought Aunt Pat home from the orphanage. We also drove up to Gates.
Today we drove up to the Orphanage where Pat was adopted. We were treated as very special guests. Copies were run of pertinent information for Pat and for the rest of us if we wanted it. Dad just blew us away when he announced that Pat’s birth mother had tried to starve herself so her father would not know she was pregnant. All our heads turned when this was announced. He said that they were told this when Pat was picked up. We were also given a very lengthy tour of the place.
As the folks had two boys and
no prospects of any more kids, they decided maybe they should adopt a little
girl. (note: Dad was 16, Lyle was ten) They wrote to
different adoptive agencies in three or four midwestern
states. All kinds of replies would come
usually on a post card with a description of the father and the mother. I remember several where the mothers were in
their forties and the fathers were teenagers!
We had gone to a place in
The mother had apparently starved herself so her parents wouldn’t know she was pregnant. The officials at the home said the father had brought his daughter to the home in a terrible angry mood. I said “Mom, surely you could have found a baby better than this one! What’s her name?” Mom said I could give her a name if I wanted to. So I named her Patricia Louise. In about three weeks she turned out to be a very happy little fat butterball. As she grew older she looked like a member of the family.
We drove up to Audubon and saw “Albert the Bull”. This is an immense concrete bull that has become a tourist attraction. We also stopped at “Plow in the Oak” park. The story is that a man going off to the Civil War, just left his plow up against a tree and the tree grew around it.
That evening we drove to Margie Westphalens to visit.
Margie was the wife of another cousin of dads. She lives in Atlantic where we were staying
and owns two spaces on
Saturday, May 25, 2002
We went to the Elk Horn Danish Tivoli
Festival. For starters we had breakfast
at the Fire Station and ate Abelskiver and Medistapolse. Abelskiver is a Danish pancake that is round like a
ball. We had these at Grandma Hansen’s
when we were growing up and always dipped them in sugar. We also had Medistapolse,
which is Danish sausage. The parade was
delightful. It reminded me of the simple
unsophisticated parade that Woodinville’s All Fools Parade used to be. We ate open face sandwiches in the town hall
(stay away from the anchovies) and visited the Danish Wind Mill. The windmill was brought from Norre Snede in
made the acquaintance of a fellow diabetic at the parade. I am reminded here, too, that
That night Harold LeRoi and Lael brought Harold’s brother Lewis by. Dad had never met him, as he was a lot younger.
stored up such memories. We had such fun
in , the little
breakfast room at the Super 8 where we could have juice, toast or cereal, or
running across the highway with my brothers to the day old bakery. Or the night I visited with “the boys” in
their room. Very
interesting conversation. Or the
evening Lynette was convinced we all left and went to dinner without her. Or me taking the second
tranquilizer and wondering why everyone was “running” out of the airport
without me. How about Krispy Kremes thanks to Roger, or
the small plane we realized was ours when we saw