It was a bright sunny day in early summer 1939. Mom and Edna (oldest sister) were very busy in the dining room; they were getting ready to sew a dress for Edna, who (at age 19 ) had a new boyfriend. Even though the young man was 9 years older than she, mom and dad approved because he was an employed school teacher. Therefore, Edna needed a new dress for a special date. The material and pattern were laid out all over the big dining room table. Buttons and thread were placed on the arm of the pedal-operated Singer sewing machine. It was an advantage to place the sewing machine in one corner of the dining room, near to the dining room table which always served as the planning and cutting surface. There was tension in the room because a high degree of perfection was needed in the placing of the pattern. Fabric was expensive so the minimal amount was purchased. In addition, there was the 25 cent cost for the pattern, 10 cents for the thread and 5 cents for the buttons! A "store bought" dress was out of the question because of the expense.
As for me (at age 8), I had two "guests" and we were outside playing with my red wagon and running around the yard. Both of my new friends were boys and a little older than me . They were questionable to my mom because they were the nephews of Julius -- our very dirty, neighbor and, even at that early age, I had to admit the boys did not look very clean. They were dressed in bib overalls with holes in the knees, their hands needed a good washing and they were barefoot. But I didn't care. Finally, I had some friends other than my sisters to play with and those boys would be visiting for only a couple more days. I was dressed in my usual summer attire -- a cotton dress (made from flour sacks), ankle socks and oxford shoes. We were not allowed to go barefoot.
Then the boys got a very bright idea! "Let's walk to the store!" The store was on the main road about a mile from our farm. They had been there before to buy grocery items for their Uncle Julius. I had been there a few times with my parents. It was where I was introduced to orange pop with a straw!
So I went into the house and told my mom we were walking to the store. She said a flat, loud,
"NO". Back outside I went -- then I called under the dining room window, "Can I go now?" Mom had not changed her mind. Back and forth I went asking the same question. I went inside and took two pennies from my piggy bank -- there were three left. Finally, I told mom and Edna we were going. This time they were so engrossed in what they were doing that they said, "Just leave us alone so we can get this done!"
We took that as permission and walked down the driveway together. When no one called us to come back, we simply kept on going. Walking was not easy on the graveled road. When we got to the main road, we did watch for cars although there were only a few going by. It wasn't too exciting, but it was different from anything I had done on any other summer day. At the store, the boys bought candy; I bought two suckers. I remember to this day what those suckers looked like and I remember they were in a white wax paper wrapping. I carried them in my hand all the way home.
WOW! On our return there was lots of excitement. Mom stood on the porch steps and yelled, "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR YOU ALL OVER THE PLACE!" Then she saw the suckers and knew we had been to the store! Immediately, she told the boys to leave. She scolded me and threatened to spank me but she sent me to my room without dinner, instead.
I was still sobbing when my dad came in for dinner. When he heard the story of the terrible-awful thing I had done, he also threatened to "take care of that girl"! However, he never followed through on his threat. I could hear him yelling all the way upstairs, so I sobbed some more because I still felt I had, indeed, been given permission to walk to the store . I took those two suckers and threw them over the banister yelling that my sister, Elda, could have them; I never wanted to see them again.
Things calmed down the next day but they watched me more closely after that. I believe they felt a bit guilty, too. Hereafter, they referred to that fateful day as the day "Laura ran away from home"!
I don't remember if Edna's dress was ever completed but she did marry the young man the next year.
Laura W. Berglund
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.