Shakopee in 1942

Gas Station in 1942Wayne’s father was age 68. He had a filling station at 139 Dakota Street in Shakopee. The pumps were not electrified. The customer would state how many gallons he wanted, and then the worker would use a hand pump to reach that level in the glass bowl. Then gravity would hose it to the car. Plastic had not been invented, and no metal quart cans of oil were used, as the aluminum was needed for building planes and tanks. If someone needed oil, they would fill quart bottles from a drum as needed.

Wayne, his son, was 11, and he waited on customers, as well. The station was closed about a year later, in 1943, because it was in a poor location. And gas was being rationed, with the average person only having stamps for three gallons per week. Margaret, who was a nurse, worked at the Cargill shipyard, and received extra stamps due to her vital work. She also had an extra battery installed under the hood of her 1939 Pontiac coupe, as the cars of the day were difficult to start in cold weather.

In 1939, Wayne’s dad’s legs were bothering him. He had been working for years plowing the fields with a team of horses. He let Elmer and Irene take over the farm after their marriage, and Dad, Mom, Rita, and Wayne moved to a house in Shakopee. It was a house acquired through a tax sale.

Rita and Wayne thought they were in heaven because they were only two blocks from St. Mary’s School, one block from the bakery, and two blocks from downtown.

There was no central plumbing or heating. Dad partitioned off part of the very large kitchen for a bathroom, including a tub. After years of an outdoor toilet and Saturday night baths in a washtub behind the kitchen stove, this was a real luxury.

A furnace was ordered from Montgomery Ward in St. Paul, and an installer came by train to put it in. He stayed with the family for two days as he did not have a car.

Wayne also remembered that they were only two blocks from the first indoor movie theatre that he had ever seen.

Farmers were not allowed to join the social security programs in those days, so the family had no real source of income. The house that was acquired through the tax sale was fixed up and painted, and it was rented, which helped.

For a few summers, Wayne’s dad worked for the State of Minnesota planting trees, but he could not stand the hot weather. During the winter he liked to attend court trials, and was always hopeful that they would need a juror, which would give them five dollars per day, probably equated to eighty dollars today.

In 1941, Wayne’s father acquired a large stucco home in rundown condition. The house needed to be razed through tax sale for twenty-five dollars. Rita and Wayne spent many hours stripping plaster and nails from the wall laths so they could be used for the new house. The new house was at 139 Dakota Street. With the help of a retired carpenter for framing, Wayne’s father did most of the building by himself.

On the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1941, Wayne and his father were working there when Rita hurried to tell them of the attack of Pearl Harbor. The family moved to the new house in 1942. Later, Wayne’s father would build two other houses in Shakopee on speculation, one on East First Street, and another near the women’s reformatory.

During the war, Wayne’s mother and other ladies gathered at the reformatory to cut sterile bed sheet into thin strips and rolled them to be used for treating the wounded soldiers in Europe. Since the family lived near the railroad tracks, hoboes riding the trains often came to the door asking to work for food. Wayne’s mother gave them sandwiches and sent them on their way.

In the early days, the Milwaukee Railroad had a daily freight train with a passenger car on the end between Farmington, Lakeville, Prior Lake, Shakopee, and Chaska, returning that afternoon.

At Credit River, about one mile from the church that the family attended was a siding. A siding, in rail terminology, is a low-speed track section distinct from a running line or through route such as a main line or branch line or spur. It may connect to through tracks or to other sidings at either end. Sidings often have lighter rails, meant for lower speed or lighter traffic, and few, if any, signals. This would not happen today, but at that time, trucks to carry goods to the Twin Cities were not very reliable. Instead, the farmers could use this siding to ship crops to market.

Every fall, Wayne’s dad would contract to sell a load of grain, and each winter a load of cordwood. On the appointed day, Mary, Margaret, and Helen would go to the siding and flag the train down and instruct the trainmen where the empty boxcar was located. Elmer would stand on the hill behind their house and listen for the whistle of the steam engine approaching the grade crossing. Then if he heard the engine starting up several minutes later, Elmer and Wayne’s dad would hitch teams of horses to the already loaded wagons. The girls would be waiting at the siding, and help load the boxcars, which were huge in size and required many wagon loads to fill.

Two days later, they would return again, flag down the train to transport the car. Wayne’s dad, Elmer, and at times a hired hand would spend much of the winter cutting wood as there was no fieldwork at that time of the year.

Helen remembered that every second day, Wayne’s mother would bake 13 loaves of bread and two tins of muffins. When a hog was butchered, she would cook and can the meat in mason jars. The pork was put in huge crocks with a layer of salt between each.

Wayne remembered asking his sister about their parents. She replied in part that “We were lucky to have such good, hardworking parents who did not smoke, drink, curse or gamble.” Wayne, on July 9, 2014, agreed, saying, “How true!”

(This information is from Thoughts Towards a Better World, #953, by Wayne as he remembered the early Shakopee in the 1940s. Kathy Garvey, granddaughter of Wayne’s dad.)

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