Surviving Winter Isolation

There was snow everywhere! In 1938, there were very few snowplows. There was one plow for the main highway about a quarter mile from the farm. After a snowstorm, it took some time before that plow came through and, when it did, the result was minimal. The truck made a path in the middle of the road, leaving a pile of snow on each side in its wake.

Now came the problem of getting the car from our garage to the main highway. To do so, my dad had a "makeshift" plow hitched to a team of horses and with that homemade monstrosity he pushed snow down our driveway and all the way to the main road. Then he equipped the car with "chains" which gave more traction on the snow covered surfaces. It took a great deal of effort but it did enable us to get out to school, the general store or church (visiting the library or stopping at the ice cream store was absolutely not allowed).

After Christmas, we felt the isolation and needed to find ways to fill leisure time and/or have some fun. We all read the newspaper or parts of it. The daily paper was delivered by mail and arrived to us one day out of date. In addition, there was the Sears Roebuck Catalog to look through and we always had the Bible to read. I received a grade school publication which came through the mail once a month and was fun to read. Fortunately, our school had a library and we were allowed to check out books which was a great asset to all of us.

Our house was big enough for each of us to find a special place if we wanted to be alone. I did play many games of jacks and, sometimes, one of my sisters played a game with me. In the evening, when our parents and uncle were doing barn chores and we had finished the dishes, we played some homemade games such as hangman or some card games.

We grew popcorn in the farm field and liked to pop that corn on cold evenings, but it was not easy to make on the kitchen range. We had a special pan with a cover and a long handle which we held over the heat and shook at regular intervals to keep the corn from burning. When the popping ceased, we quickly removed the pan and emptied it into a bowl, but the primitive process left us with more than a few burned kernels. Sometimes one of my sisters would make fudge to go with the popcorn; that was so-oooo good! Popcorn is always better with chocolate.

In the daytime, we did our share of sliding and skiing. Our sleds were primitive and the skis were strap-ons (and kept falling off), plus the hill was only a bump on the landscape, but we knew nothing better and had fun anyway. When I made snowmen, my sister, Elda, made sculptured swans, pigs, dogs, etc. She grew up to be a talented artist. It was a hard act to follow.

I don't remember anticipating the coming of spring as I do now. It seems each season had its own set of positives. Plus, we always had each other. Fortunately, there was very little bickering in that household of seven people (originally eight, but one sister was old enough to have a job and work in town).

Please note that my dad took the above picture of me (with a borrowed camera) holding a baby pig about the time of this story.

Respectfully submitted,

Laura W. Berglund
January 2018
Laura Berglund is a former Afton area resident who writes post-depression stories of her childhood living in rural southern Minnesota. Her husband, Harold, (other than two years in the Army), has spent his entire life in the St. Croix Valley/Afton area, never more than 12 miles from his birthplace.