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Doris has described life many years ago.  You or your parents/grand-parents may remember this life. 



All the pieces in her quilt

     are scraps from her aprons and dresses.

A collage of her life

     in calicos and prints,   

a thing of beauty from leftovers.


Entwined in the threads

     of the innumerable stitches

are fragments of her time --

     hours and minutes

invested and hidden in this labor of love.


Today I possess Grandma's treasure

     and I realize I'm twice blessed

For I'm warmed not only by the quilt

     but by these remnants from her days.


                By Doris Stensland in On the Back Step 




Other Doris Stensland Reminisce Writings 

·         Walking the Beans 

·         Milking Time 

·         Raising Baby Chicks 

·         A Tire Swing 

·         Favorite Christmas Memories 

·         Picking Corn by Hand 

·         Going to Town On Saturday Night 

·         Time To Plant Corn 

·         Grandpa's Lumber Wagon 

·         Having A Farmer's Heart 

·         The Groves 

·         I Remember Oilcloth 

·         The Old-Fashioned Peony 

·         How Times Have Changed! 

·         Grandpa's Barn 

·         Julestjerne (Christmas star) 

·         Bib Overalls 

·         Old-Fashioned Threshing Days 

·         Grandma and Her Sewing Machine 

·         A Cup of Coffee 

·         Blow Wind Blow 

·         Old Straw Hat 

·         I Remember Yellow Roses  

·         The Benediction 

·         Our Front Porch Neighbors 

·         Number Please 

·         When Women Wore Hats 

·         Cod Liver Oil and Spinach 

·         Cracker Jack Surprises 

·         Syrup Lunch Pails 

·         Clothespin Days 

·         Grandma's Cookies 

·         The Cob Box 

·         Grandma's Kitchen Stove 



Walking the Beans 


WEEDS -  the crop that never fails.    

Weeds have always been the farmer's foe.  Back a number of years ago, it was the weed's appearance in the soybean fields that gave the farmer problems.    

Members of our family still remember bean-walking days.  Summer after summer, armed with sharpened hoes and dangerous corn knives, the mother, farmer and all the family members went on weed attacks in the soybean field.   Day after day the crew began early, in the coolest part of the day.  You would have seen them marching up and down the rows of soybeans, chopping off sunflowers, cockleburs and other troublesome weeds. 

It was a happy year when biologists discovered a new hardier soybean that could withstand weed spray and the farmer no longer needed to fight weeds manually.  Now everyone was rejoicing because the farmer when using these new soybean seeds could fight the weeds with his tractor and sprayer.  Today "walking the soybeans" is only a memory.  

Written by Doris Stensland - November 2017 



Today only a few people can remember sitting alongside a milk cow and "milking by hand".    At milking time, twice a day the Holsteins waited for the farmer to open the barn door and then they marched each one to their own stall.  

At every milking, a family of cats and kittens were also a part of the scene. As the farmer milked, the cat family stationed themselves behind the cow he was milking, begging the farmer to send a stream of warm milk to them.   And he usually did. 

In those days, the only equipment the farmer needed was a simple wooden stool, large shiny milk pails and a few sets of hobbles.  To the farmer, there were several generous milk cows in his herd that filled the milk pail every day.  However, there were some ornery ones that often kicked up a response at being milked, so to protect himself the farmer had to use hobbles on them. 

The milk was separated and the cream went into the cream can, which the cream man picked up several times a week.  The skim milk went out to the pigs. 

Yes, this manner of "milking by hand" was the way they did it a long time ago.  As time has passed, this chore of "milking by hand" was modernized by using milking machines.  Today some dairy farmers have gone a step further and have progressed to robots.  Things in the dairy business may have changed, but milk is still the same healthy drink, needed by all - babies to Grandpas! 


Written by Doris Stensland - August 2017 


Raising Baby Chicks 

I suppose every farmer's wife has tried her hand at raising chicks. At this time of the year we reminisce over those days of excitement, work and worry. 

          Bringing the baby chicks home from the hatchery was a big event. The chicks came into their new home in big cardboard boxes. It was an enjoyable task to take each little warm ball of fluff out of the box and set it on its two wirey legs. Soon the brooder-house was full of "cheeping chicks", busy using their little beaks to investigate. 

          They needed very warm quarters. We would have to shed our wraps as we came in the door. 

          They were delicate creatures in those early days of their life. A drop in temperature would cause them to pile up and smother. Lots of attention and care was required to get them off to a good start, and there always were some losses.  


From Country Style - Living the Farm Life (March 23, 1967) 


A   T I R E   S W I N G 

Hidden in the happy memories of many of us is an old tire swing,

just an old worn-out tire that hung from a tree in the back yard.  It was fastened to a strong, far-reaching branch and was just the right height so that when you sat in it your feet were on the ground.

We were excited when someone gave us a push.  On a sunny lazy afternoon, we

would crawl into it, and were just as happy slowly turning it to and fro or twisting it around.   This was our private spot where we could sit and daydream.    

Everyone needed a comfortable tire swing in their youth.


By Doris Stensland - February 2017 




Some of my sweetest memories go back to when I was a young girl and our Christmas Eves were spent at Grandpa and Grandma's house.  What still stands out in my mind is the Christmas tree with real candles burning on it. They didn't have electricity.    

The evening began about four o'clock when we heard the church bells ringing.  Grandma put on a delicious supper that included ribbe, lefse, flatbrod, and all her Christmas bakings. But no lutefisk! We then went into the parlor and the candles on the tree were lit.   

Grandpa sat by the tree with a pail of water as he guarded the lighted Christmas tree.  He read the Christmas story and we all sang Christmas carols. Then Grandpa and Grandma sang some of their favorite Christmas songs in Norwegian.  We all tried to join in on "Jeg er saa glad" (I am so glad each Christmas Eve).  After this the gifts were distributed.  Now I can't remember any of the gifts I received those years.  I only remember the great joy in our hearts and the specialness of those Christmas nights.  


By Doris Stensland 




Today the combines harvest the ears of corn, but some of us can remember other days.  In the past, the investment of a dollar husking hook was all that was needed to harvest his corn. The farmer would get out his faithful team of horses and the lumber wagon with its high bang boards and walk up and down the corn rows, un-situating the ears, one by one, from their moorings. 

          The team learned to move at the speed of the human picker. They would mosey along as he ripped off the husk and tossed the ear into the bang-board. 

          The only casualties in those days were a sprained wrist and a stiff back. 

          In comparing then and now, we wonder if there isn't a price to pay for progress, both money-wise and accident-wise. 



pick corn by hand - b&w 

By Doris Stensland - October, 2016 


G O I N G   T O   T O W N   O N   S A T U R D A Y   N I G H T 


It now seems a long time ago when we spent Saturday nights in town.  During the summer months the stores remained open on Saturday nights.  This was both a necessity and a social time for the farmer.  He quit his work early, and the whole family headed for town.  Mother had her grocery list and Dad was going to get a hair-cut and visit with his neighbors.  The children were given a few      coins for their pockets. 

On a nice summer night the town's sidewalks teemed with happy people.  Farmers got a chance to discuss crops with their neighbors.  You would find many couples visiting over a cup of coffee in one of the restaurants.  The children headed to the Noid Drugstore on Main Street where Polly Noid dished up ice cream cones for a nickel.  Some older women would sit in their parked cars watching the people walking by. 


There are still a group of us that have good memories of those long ago summer Family Saturday Nights.    


By Doris Stensland - September 2016 


T I M E   T O   P L A N T   C O R N 


If the farmer is to have a harvest in the fall, he must get the seeds in the ground each Spring.  Deciding when to do this planting is important.  Some farmers have a deadline or a certain date on the calendar.  To some it depends on the weather and  the moisture in the fields.  However, in Grandpa's day the swallows' return from the south was his cue to plant. 

In the Spring when Grandpa saw the swallows appear on the telephone wire, looking very formal with their black pointed tail-feathers all in a row, Grandpa would get into gear!  Usually it was May 4th or 5th.  He would have his team of horses and one-row planter ready to go! 

In Grandpa's day planting corn wasn't so simple.  He didn't have a seed corn company to purchase seed corn from, so he had to prepare the seed corn himself.  In the previous Fall he would keep some of the nicest ears, let these hang in the corncrib to dry and have these shelled and ready to go when the swallows returned the next Spring. 

In Grandpa's day the corn yield per acre was very low.  In every generation the farmer has done the best job he could with the equipment and facilities he had.     

If Grandpa knew what the corn yields were today, he wouldn't believe it!   


By Doris Stensland - May 2016 






The vehicles that the farmer uses today are a pick-up, a truck or a semi, but Grandpa in his day did his hauling with his faithful lumber-wagon.  Grandpa hitched his team of horses to this big open-topped wooden box with wheels, and with live horsepower he transported oats, corn, lumber, or whatever.  Grandpa needed this lumber wagon to get his farm work done. 

When Fall came and it was time to get the corn harvested, the farmer used his lumber wagon overtime as he worked day after day, walking alongside the team and his lumber wagon as it slowly moved up and down the rows of corn.  By hand he detached the ears of corn from the stalk, tossing the corn against the bang-board and into the lumber wagon.  It was a slow job in those days, and each loaded wagon represented hard and tiring work. 

pick corn by hand - b&w  

Some winters when there was a lot of snow, Grandpa transferred the wooden top of his lumber wagon to sleigh runners and this furnished winter transportation for the whole family.  When travelling on a cold winter day they snuggled beneath Grandpa's heavy fur robe and over the fields they'd go.    


sleigh & horses - b&w 


By Doris Stensland - February, 2016 




H A V I N G  A  F A R M E R ' S  H E A R T 


When you have a farmer's-heart, it lasts a lifetime. 

From dawn to dusk you plant and reap,  

and fight the weeds. 

The years roll by. . . and then you retire! 

BUT Farming is still on your mind . . . . . 

You listen to the markets every day; 

still awaken at 4:30 - 5:00 each morn, 

take trips through the countryside 

to check on other farmers' crops. 

This makes you recall your past feelings of accomplishment, 

and the gladness you had each fall when your bins were filled. 

To you a golden ear of corn will always be a beautiful thing . . . . 

. . . when you have a farmer's heart! 


By Doris Stensland - November, 2015 



T H E   G R O V E S 


          Perhaps the psalmist first sang his psalms as he sat in the shade of a tree and played his harp.    Many of his psalms were about trees.  Trees were important to him.  In Psalm one, he described a believer as a healthy tree growing beside the waters. 


When the pioneers came to the Dakota prairie, the land was bare of trees.  They felt trees were needed so these early settlers dug up cottonwood seedlings growing along the rivers and transplanted them on their land. They planted row after row of them.  As these seedlings grew year after year into big beautiful leafy trees, they now had groves. They were so proud of their groves.  


The pioneers liked to get together to celebrate the Fourth of July and have church picnics, but without a community gathering place in those days, the people decided to come together in the shade of someone's grove.  Usually they would set up a stand where ice cream and soda pop could be purchased.  These events became a way the whole neighborhood could gather together, and it was enjoyed by old and young, and also the children.    


Later the three churches in the community held Fall Festival events each autumn.  A platform was built, and a piano moved in, and they had music, a program, and speeches.  The final Fall Festival was held in my Grandfather's grove in 1934.  I remember how busy Grandpa was, cleaning up his grove beforehand, raking twigs and picking up broken branches. 


  In past days the groves were the community meeting places.  The pioneers were proud of their groves.  It gave them an opportunity to get together and sit in the shade of the trees and visit and listen to an uplifting program.  Today there are parks in the community where neighbors can gather.  Some of these groves are still part of the landscape, but after so many years, some have been cut down and the land is now used for farming.      


By Doris Stensland - August 2015  



I    R E M E M B E R    O I L C L O T H 


I  remember meals eaten at oilcloth covered tables; 

These brightly colored tablecloths of flower or gingham design 

added style to Depression days 

when our family dined. 

If the coffee spilled, or baby tipped his milk, 

Mother wouldn't cry; 

she had confidence this cloth 

would  keep the table dry. 

Oilcloth was so durable and easy to wipe clean. 

it was yesteryear's  housewives' dream. 


                        By Doris Stensland - May, 2015 



T H E  O L D   - F A S H I O N E D   P E O N Y 


            O, Pink Peony!  There's not a flower that can compare with your beauty and grace.  Your crowded petal arrangements develop into outrageous flowers, large and beautiful.  You have been cultivated in gardens for over six hundred years and were popular  way back in Victorian times. Peony plants are among the longest-living perennials, often thriving for decades, even when neglected. 

            My Grandmother grew peonies.  I still have memories of being a little girl accompanying Grandma to the cemetery on Memorial Day, carrying bouquets of Grandma's peonies.  

            And it was Grandma's peonies that filled the tall white baskets at our wedding.  It was these flowers that stood beside us up by the altar when we made our vows on June 6, 1943. 

            Then it was my turn to grow peonies.  Every year these plants gave me bouquets to fill my vases.  Your endless unfurling gave me flowers for many weeks as your buds slowly opened. 

            The friendship of the black ants climbing in and out of the buds did no harm; they were sipping sap.  I clipped your peony blossom stems, shook off the ants, and brought the blossoms inside to enjoy.  Oh, Pink Peony, you are my old-fashioned favorite! 


By Doris Stensland, May 2015 






The thirties were known as the Depression days, and money was scarce.  For that generation, thrift was the way of life when women patched clothes and darned socks. The food they ate was mostly what they had on the farm -  eggs, milk and chicken. 

This doesn't describe life today.  Now you will never see any one walking around with neatly patched jeans.  It is the style to wear wornout- looking  pants with holes on the knees, and today you won't see mothers spending their time patiently darning the holes in their family's socks!  It is wiser to pick up new ones at the store. 

And  it is seldom you find food on the farm today!  The majority of farms are barren of animals - chickens, cows and pigs.  Now we have to get these food supplies  from the grocery store!  And thus time marches on. 






It was his pride and joy, 

This huge structure that 

Added the finishing touch to his farm. 

It was his ark, 

Filled with animals and hay 

Where he was Noah 

Tending to his creatures. 

Morning and night he opened the door 

To the milk cows filing into their stalls. 

At milking time the cat family gathered 

And patiently waited for their pans to be filled, 

Or a squirt of milk to be sent their way. 

Then came the bucket brigade 

With warm milk for the high-strung, rambunctious calves. 

On the other side were the horses, 

A row of muscular giants 

That daily worked the fields. 

He called them all by name. 

And often in the pens were long-legged colts. 

In those days the barn had a heart 

That gave warmth and coziness to the place, 

And welcomed and made each animal feel at home. 

But now this building is obsolete, 

The home for pigeons and mice. 

Yet it is not empty 

For it holds volumes of memories. 

And somehow I cannot separate 

My memories of Grandpa 

From his barn. 


By Doris Stensland in "Our Words Are Blossoms" 










Julestjerne (Christmas star) 


Taken from Music Man from Norway, written by Doris Stensland:  Doris described a Christmas Eve with the Indseth family: 


While Inger and the girls were busy in the kitchen, preparing the usual Christmas Eve meal, with lutefisk and lefse, boiled potatoes, and all the trimmings, Andrew took over the job of tending the babies - both ten-day-old Florence and sixteen-month-old Josephine.  Berger and Malinda gathered around him also.  When the baby was asleep, Andrew put her in the cradle and held Josephine on his lap. 


This was one of the shortest days of the year, and darkness settled early.  Andrew told Berger and Malinda to go over to the window and see if they could see the star - the Julestjerne (Christmas star). 

Berger put his nose against the windowpane. 

"I can see some stars," he said. 

Andrew went over to look. 

"Berger, do you see that bright one?" 

Both Berger and Malinda studied the night sky. 

Andrew told them, "Perhaps that is the star that guided the three wise men so long ago." 

"Ja Pappa," agreed Berger.  "I think that is the Julestjerne." 





          Overalls have stood the test of time and served their wearers well.  A pair of bibs suggested ruralness and farming.  This was illustrated by the famous painting of Grant Wood's American Gothic, where the stern farmer and his wife stand with a pitchfork and he is wearing a bib overall. 

          Bib overalls were introduced in the late 1890's and became popular with the farmer.  When my Grandfather took his family to Norway to visit in 1909, he brought along denim bib overalls as gifts for his brothers there, but these weren't accepted as well in Norway.  He would ask his brothers, "Aren't you going to wear your overall today?" they would hem and haw and say, " No, not today."  They felt Norwegian work clothes should remain dark woolen trousers with long sleeve shirts, not overalls. 

          In the 1900's OshKosh B'Gosh of Wisconsin began selling bib overalls in children's sizes so kids could dress like their dads.  The standard school clothes for boys in the 30's and 40's was bib overalls, especially in the rural schools.    

          An interesting quote from Thomas Edison mentions overalls - "Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."    




By Doris Stensland, October 2014 





                                                It was a different time, 

                                                another era. 

                                                The high point of the agricultural year 

                                                when the sun was high 

                                                and its rays beat down 

                                                on land and man and beast. 


                                                Then it was time 

                                                for the threshing machine  

                                                to chug into the farmyard 

                                                with teams of horses and hayracks 

                                                in happy procession. 

                                                The golden shocks of grain 

                                                which had so nicely decorated 

                                                the fields 

                                                would soon be lifted  

                                                one by one 

                                                by hard-working, sweat-soaked men 

                                                into the waiting hayracks 

                                                and then tossed into the big machine 

                                                to erupt as golden grain 

                                                and a shiny straw stack. 


                                                It was a different time 

                                                another era 

                                                before air conditioning 

                                                or electric stoves 

                                                when women helped each other 

                                                feed these hungry workers. 

                                                All day they stood over hot stoves 

                                                fueled with corn cobs 

                                                with sweat trickling down their cheeks 

                                                as they baked pies and cakes 

                                                fried chicken and meat 

                                                and prepared the nourishing farm food 

                                                for meals and lunches. 


                                                It was a different time, 

                                                another era 

                                                which now exists only in our memories, 

                                                when work was a special event 

                                                and camaraderie made the event 

                                                a festivity.                          

                                                            - from book On the Back Step by Doris Stensland  





I remember Grandma . . . 

with a thimble on her finger and a needle in her hand, 

with her feet upon the treadle, she was an artisan. 

She could take a piece of fabric - be it crepe or calico, 

and produce a lovely garment, 

trimmed with rick-rack, lace, jabot. 


With a thimble on her finger, a needle in her hand, 

her feet upon the treadle, she made garments on demand. 

With her scissors, pins and patterns, and her faithful Singer machine, 

she would sew for everybody - baby, toddler, teen. 

We think of Grandma as old-fashioned,  

but I tell you in her day, she kept up with fashions. 

"She had style",  I'd say.       


When her feet were on the treadle 

her sewing skills were keen. 

Yes, I'll remember Grandma 

. . . and her Singer sewing machine.                     


By Doris Stensland - August 2014 





Every morning about one-third of the people in the world have their first cup of coffee of the day to get them going.  Some serve it black and very strong; some serve it with a little cream, and some need a sugar cube to go with it.  


Can you believe that coffee was first discovered by some goats?  Legend tells us that around the year 850 an Arab goat-herder named Kaldi  noticed the strange behavior of his flock, so he tasted the berries his goats had been eating.  He experienced such a stimulation when he tried it, that he recommended these berries to others.  By the 16th Century this drink had become so popular that coffee houses had sprung up all the way to London. 


People all over the world drink more coffee than any other beverage.  Like the goat herder, we like coffee's stimulation and when we feel that energy is lacking, we reach for another cup.          

By Doris Stensland - August 2014 





We've been told that it was you, Oh Wind, 

who brought the water up in days of old. 

On a quiet day 

you would have heard my Grandpa say…. 

"Blow, wind, blow; 

the water in the reservoir is low. 

I depend on you to make the windmill go, 

and pump the water up, 

So Blow, Wind Blow!" 

You were needed then. 

Today, farmers pump their water by electricity! 



By Doris Stensland - August 2014 








"Old Straw Hat!  

Old Straw Hat!  

My Old Straw Hat!"  

I am so thankful for my old straw hat!" 


This little song was a hit when my younger brother, at age 7 or 8, sang it at a country school program many years ago.  He stood there, a little country boy, in his overalls and straw hat, singing the praises of his "old straw hat!"  


In times past, straw hats were a farmer's necessity as a protection from the summer sun which beat down as they worked outside.  Grandpa always grabbed his old straw hat when he went outside in the summertime. 


But now things have changed!  Today farmers ride in air-conditioned cabs and don't feel the need of a straw hat to protect them from the sun.  What farmers wear today is more of a baseball-style cap. Today the" old straw hat" is becoming only a memory. 


By Doris Stensland - June 2014 




Intertwined with my Grandma memories are Grandma's yellow roses.  There by her front gate grew this old-fashioned shrub rose.  Each year when June arrived, buds would appear on it and the sunshine of summer forced the yellow blossoms to burst into bloom. 

As a little girl I'd watch Grandma joyfully clip yellow bouquets to bring into the house.  Always this wonderful fragrance came along in with them.  To this day a trace of this lovely rose scent still stays in my memory.   When June rolls around, I always remember Grandma and her yellow roses. 


By Doris Stensland - June 2014 





Back in the horse and buggy days, my Grandmother had a friend.  In those days the church services were lengthy.  Sometimes her friend's family wanted to leave church early, right after the sermon.  It was less stressful to head home before the confusion when all the teams of horses and buggies were leaving at once.   But this woman was firm.  She always insisted that they wait for the regular dismissal because, "We can't miss the Benediction.  I must have it."    

She couldn't face the coming week without this blessing - 

"The Lord Bless you and keep you;  

The Lord make His face shine upon you 

and be gracious to you; 

The Lord turn His face toward you 

and give you peace."       -Numbers 6:24-26 


To be warmed by the radiance of His smile, 

To be crowned with His special peace that passes understanding, 

To have His loving face turned toward you. 


Who would want to miss that?  It's what you and I need every day. 



folded hands - b&w 

by Doris Stensland (from her devotional, Breakfast with Jesus Everyday) 





          The swallows usually arrived at our farm in early May and then began building their nests. These were barn swallows, but every year there were some who would rather build their nest on our front porch.  Using mud and dried grasses, we discovered they were very messy builders, dropping muddy stuff on our porch floor.  We did not like this and discouraged them by tearing down their structures. However, the very next day they were at it again with more mud and more grasses and twigs!  These birds were very determined, but so were we!  They wouldn't give up until after six or more futile attempts. 

          One year, getting into the heat of summer, when we thought the skirmishes with these swallows were over, we had finally relaxed, only to discover a finished nest right up there on our front porch.  And it had eggs in it.  Soon there were two baby swallows.  We watched as day after day these birds grew older and we were thinking we would soon get to see them tumble out of their nest and try out their wings. 

  But one morning the long electric wire stretching from our light pole to the windmill was solidly filled with swallows.  We had never seen so many swallows. All their heads were facing south and they looked so orderly with their black pointed swallow-tails all in a row.  The next day there was not a swallow anywhere!  We finally determined they must have headed south for the winter.  We hurried to our front porch, and the nest was empty!  Our hearts sank!  They were gone.  We couldn't see a sign of them anywhere. How could those two little birdlings make such a trip?  They had had no flying lessons and possessed no wing muscles.  For the next several days you would have heard us worrying about the future of those birds. 

Yes, that's the way life is!  When your neighbors are away on a trip, you can't help but worry about them and you always hope they are having a safe journey.  That's exactly how we felt about our front porch neighbors!        


By Doris Stensland - May, 2014 




Grandpa began planning for the spring work the previous fall when he picked his corn by hand.  There were no DeKalb and Pioneer seed corn companies in his day so in the fall he chose the nicest ears to be saved as seed corn for the next spring.  In the fall he would hang these ears up in the alley of his corn crib to dry and during the winter he shelled the kernels off the cobs by hand.  They were ready when spring planting time came.  

In April, with live horsepower, he prepared the fields so that on May 5th or 6th when the swallows returned, he could get the kernels into the ground.  The swallows' arrival was his planting to-go sign. 

Grandpa didn't plant corn as they do today.  He had a single-row planter with an attached wire with knots in it which he stretched across his field.  This would make the kernels drop in exact spaces when he crossed the field.  Later when the green corn plants came up, there would be a criss-cross design in his field which he could cultivate and keep clean by plowing in both directions. 

Today seed corn isn't checked when planted.  Now it is thickly sown in rows that are close together.  Today we don't get to see the beautiful cornfields with the artistic checkerboard design that resulted in Grandpa's corn-planting days. 


By Doris Stensland - May 2014 



The two excerpts below, "Number Please"  and "When Women Wore Hats", are from Doris Stensland's historical novel, The Music Man From Norway.  This information was gleaned from a 1905 Canton newspaper, reflecting actual people and life from early 1900s.  



Number Please 


In 1905 telephone lines had been set up in the rural areas surrounding Canton and most farms were getting hooked into it.  Now it was so convenient for those having telephones to ring the telephone operator and have her contact the person to whom they wished to speak, instead of harnessing up the horses and driving to their house.  This operator was supposed to have the answers for everything - the time of all the trains, and if a train was late, and how many minutes behind. Often she was asked the time of day, and was supposed to know where the fire was. The entertainment of many farm families that cold snowy winter, was to rubber, or to listen in, on their neighbor's phone calls.  But when spring came, one farm woman sadly stated, "Now we are so busy with the spring work, we don't have time to listen."  



When Women Wore Hats 


"Mother, have you seen the advertisements for the spring millinery openings in town?"  Inez asked her mother.  "I think you and I and Jenny should go into Canton and take in one of them.  They all sound special.  Jenny and I want to help you find a new hat." 

During the month of April, 1905, the three millinery shops in Canton held Spring Openings.  Mrs. Milliman had already held hers.  Her shop had been beautifully decorated with fresh flowers.  English violets from the southland were the decoration for one window and the other window held carnations in all their varied shades. The sweet breath of spring prevailed the atmosphere there. 

The Indseth ladies decided to attend Helga Hage's opening, which was the second week of the month.  The boys harnessed up the horse for them, hitched it to the buggy, and the ladies were on their way. 

When they entered Helga Hage's store, they imagined they were in Japan. There were Japanese lanterns, umbrellas, and huge Japanese vases filled with palms and flowers, and the ladies walked on Japanese matting.  A Japanese screen confronted them behind which a sweet voice induced them to peek and they discovered a dainty young lady, who smilingly offered them a fragrant cup - not of tea, but of coffee - for in Canton everybody drank coffee.  As the ladies sipped and smiled and chatted, they felt Miss Hage's millinery openings were one thing they would never want to miss.  Helga and her assistant, Gennivieve Buckin, had been to Minneapolis on a purchasing trip. Gennivieve would trim and adorn the beautiful creations for the customers. 

Inger chose a black finely woven straw, and the girls had Gennivieve add a gorgeous silk flower and some draping.  "Oh, Mother, it looks so nice!"  Her daughters were pleased with it.  

A third millinery shop was owned by a Mrs. Riggins.  In the newspaper she was quoted as assuring the public that her opening would surpass the two preceding ones.  




During my growing-up years, we didn't have multi-vitamins, but there was cod liver oil.  People back then realized that the body needed something extra, so during the winter months, mothers fed their children a spoonful of this oily, fish-tasting substance every day.  I must confess that I fed it to my boys also.  It was good for us. Then vitamin tablets came out. 

Mothers knew that vegetables held many of these vitamins and made sure their children ate their vegetables.  Mother would say, "Eat your carrots.  They are good for your eyes."  Grandma told us to eat our beets because they would give us rosy cheeks.  For several years Grandma planted spinach.  When it was cooked, it didn't look very appetizing, and we kind of balked at eating it, but Grandma told us it would make us strong. This was the time that Popeye came into being, with his large muscular arms, and who lived on spinach.  This encouraged us. 

We used to sing the popular Popeye song,  

          "I'm Popeye, the sailor man.  I live in the garbage can."  

(I don't know if the words were correct, but that's the way  we sang it.)  "I AM what I AM, and that's what I am.  I'm Popeye, the sailor man."  

Grandma didn't like that song and asked us not to sing it.  As I became 

older and studied my Bible, I understood why.  God told Moses, "When 

people ask what my name is, tell them it is "I AM".  Grandma felt we were being irreverent when we sang the Popeye song. 

But she always said, "Eat your spinach.  It'll make you strong." 


By Doris Stensland (from her cookbook, Vaer saa god - Come and Eat) 





When we opened a box of Cracker Jack, we could hardly wait to find the toy surprise  

inside.  It was always in the bottom of the box.  What would it be?  A plastic figure such as a tiny animal, airplane, whistle, or a ring?  As kids, we looked forward as much to the prize inside as to the great taste of the snack in the box.  

Cracker Jack was introduced at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. It got its name of "Cracker Jack" after an enthusiastic man who sampled it remarked "That's a crackerjack!" He meant it was exceptionally good.      

In 1908 Cracker Jack got lots of free publicity when the song, "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" became popular.  It included these lines: "Take me out to the ball game; take me out to the crowd.  Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. . ."  This confection was packaged in a red, white and blue box with a picture of  Sailor Jack  and his dog Bingo on the Cracker Jack box cover.   On June 16, 1993,  the 100th anniversary of Cracker Jack was celebrated at Wrigley Field during the game between the Cubs and the expansion Florida Marlins.  Before the game, Sailor Jack, the company mascot, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. 

There are no longer prizes in the Cracker Jack boxes.  But who can forget that thrill of opening the toy surprise inside?  So, thank you, Cracker Jack for what you were.  Thanks for the good times and the memories of something special from our childhood days. 


By Doris Stensland - February, 2014 




In the 1930's we were recycling and we didn't even know it!  

Many children attending country schools in those days came to school carrying shiny lunch pails.  During those depression days, Karo white syrup came in a large size tin pail.  It even had a heavy wire handle on it, so you could carry it.  When emptied, this pail was just the right size for a couple of sandwiches, an apple or orange and a cookie.  The label  and paper covering was torn from it and it ended up as a handy and shiny container, just right size for school  lunches. 

Now, you wonder, what did people do with all the thick white syrup that was inside?   At our house, our Mother always added some maple extract flavoring to it and we used it on French toast and pancakes.  And at our house, the favorite snack in those days was not peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but peanut butter and thick maple-flavored syrup on a slice of bread. My brothers, coming home from school, loved to fix these for an afternoon lunch. 

In those days, buying a pail of Karo syrup gave a double usage.  You made do with what  you had.  As money became more plentiful, these syrup lunch pails were discarded and store-bought regular lunch buckets were used.  

 But there was nothing wrong with those old syrup lunch pails!   They filled the bill!    


By Doris Stensland - December, 2013 





In bygone days these small pieces of forked wood were laundry-day necessities.  But now their time has passed.  I haven't seen or used one in many years. Today I toss the wet laundered clothes into the dryer.  But I have many good memories of those clothespin days. 

Hanging up clothes was my favorite part of washday.  This gave me an opportunity to spend an hour outdoors.  On a quiet rural Monday morning, I often would be entertained with meadowlark music as I slipped the clothespins, one by one, over sheets, towels, striped farmer- overalls and other clothing.  Some years you could have seen me sticking clothespins into rows of diapers.  In Spring, my washday was enhanced by the sweet fragrances of apple blossoms and lilacs. A filled clothesline tells a story.  Passersby could eye it and determine by the sizes of the overalls and dresses what boys and girls, men and women were living at our house. 

After emptying the clothes basket, I left the drying process to the sun and the breezes.  By afternoon the laundry could be gathered in.  I would pull out one clothespin after another and drop them into the clothespin bag to be used another week.    

That evening everyone went to bed with sheets that had that wonderful fresh, air-dried scent, which is so special that Tide and Downy are still trying to copy it. 

As we look back at those old days, life then seemed to move at a slower and more contented pace.  Of course, laundry in clothespin days took more of our time and labor, but there were blessings in many other ways. 

A clothespin was perhaps a small item, but it did its job! 


                               By Doris Stensland - October, 2013 





When Grandma baked her cookies in her big black Majestic range, 

I always thought it was a mystery and also kind of strange 

how she could know how many corn cobs to make right oven heat 

for her cookies were always perfect  coming off the cookie sheet. 

When the aroma of baking cookies was in the air, 

grandchildren came running from everywhere. 

It was a custom at Grandpa's forenoon lunch, 

that we would also be there to grab fresh cookies to munch. 

Sometimes we'd sit on Grandpa's knee 

and dip sugar lumps in his coffee. 

These memories of childhood days are to me sublime -  

the days we were at Grandma's house 

at cookie baking time. 

By Doris Stensland 




Back in the '20's and 30's, a cob basket or cob box would usually be seen in a corner of the farm kitchen.   These containers would hold both dirty and clean corn cobs to be used as fuel in the farm kitchen ranges.  With corncobs available, the farmer had no need to chop wood. 

The ways of life and farming have made a giant leap since the '20's and 30's.  Hogs have always had corn on their menu but in those early days the farmer just tossed the whole corn ears into the hog pen and let the pigs clean the corn off the cob.  Many of these bare corn cobs would often be trampled in the mud and waste that covered the ground.  When the sunshine had dried them out, it was at this point these corncobs were ready for the farm kitchen range. 

The youngsters in the family had the assigned task of keeping the cob box filled.  Out they would go into the hog pen with the cob basket and gather these cobs by hand. 

These corncobs produced good heat when burned in the range. The farm wife soon discovered how many corncobs to add to get the right temperature for her different kinds of baking.         

Today this reusing of cobs from the corn ear would be referred to as "recycling".  In those days it was just being practical, and using what was available.  Many senior citizens today can remember the days of picking cobs in their father or grandfather's pig yard.  


By Doris Stensland, October 2013 





Grandma's big black kitchen range, 

(you don't see them anymore.) 

Now only electric and gas stoves are in the hardware store. 

To Grandma it was beautiful, and practical also, 

for it had chrome trim and a water reservoir. 

The range was very versatile and could perform various jobs. 

She would get heat from this black giant by feeding it corn cobs. 

Grandma knew how many handfuls it would take 

to bake delicious cookies and cakes. 


Towards the back of the stove stood the coffee pot, 

and the coffee in it was always hot. 

During apple season, a big black kettle she's use 

for cooking jams and jellies and making apple juice. 

Something special about her stove was Norwegian lefse-making; 

its solid smooth black top was perfect for lefse-baking. 


Winter brought another plus for her grand old range.  On blustery days 

Grandma opened the oven door and it warmed up the place. 

My stove can outperform most of Grandma's tasks, 

but there's one thing my modern stove lacks - 

I can't bake lefse on my electric stove top. 

But I have one advantage I'll brag about. . . . . . 

"I never have to carry any ashes out!" 

By Doris Stensland 










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