12.19.2021 [archived ~ originally published 1.28.2016]
Potato Soup for the Hearty is my recognition of the small and not so small accomplishments of our grandparents and their neighbors. Potato Soup because it is a staple comfort food loved by all and For the Hearty because many of these endeavors required great stamina and fortitude.
I have collected a handful of stories of various undertakings that were mentioned in the old newspapers and selected six to share. I am sure that for every one in print, there are another hundred anecdotes that haven’t been written and I hope with your help we can change that.
Eighteen-year-old Emma was in the wrong place at the wrong time but made up for it with a speedy return on foot. “Though there are some good walkers among the women of this country, there are but a few who can do six miles in less than an hour as did Emma Johnson, a domestic in the employ of Mrs. P. R. Brooks. While the local was in the yards she was in the coach talking to a friend Tuesday morning and instead of the coach halting at the depot, it pulled right out, and Emma had to ‘hike’ back from O’Brien spur, which she did.” Itasca News 3-29-1904
Harry and Ed were nearly twice as old as Emma when they flew up the river going over thirteen miles an hour on a frigid winter day. “H.D. Horton and Ed. Carlson skated up the river to town a distance of about twenty miles and report this as being the quickest way they have ever made the trip, making it in one and a half hours.” Bigfork Settler 12-18-1913
Lumberjack Halvor Olson didn’t intend to set a record, but he was a hard worker, and the weather didn’t delay his progress at all. In fact, he “…set a record when he finished his logging contract for Ross Slack and landed over three hundred thousand feet of logs in less than six weeks. If the rest of the loggers would get a hustle on like that, there would be no danger of anyone losing money at logging.” Itasca News 3-5-1914
Lillian Hewis, on the other hand, had a definite goal of winning one of the cars offered as prizes for selling newspaper subscriptions for the Duluth News Tribune.
Sells Lots of Newspaper Subscriptions ~ Itasca News 2-5-1916
Mrs. Hewis Wins Buick D-45 Car
“It isn’t the town, it’s you, may apply in the big newspaper circulation campaign in which the Duluth News Tribune offered prizes of automobiles and other valuable articles running into thousands of dollars, and which gave any person a chance by hustle to win a 1916 car valued at from $750 to as high as $1400.
In the campaign Mrs. James A. Hewis set out to win one of the larger awards, and she did it. The young woman figured first it was worth the time and investment she would put into the work, then went ahead with ambition and zeal. She visited nearly every town on the western iron range and most of the towns along the main line on the Great Northern road as far west as Fosston. In the city of Duluth Mrs. Hewis had her greatest opposition, but to offset that she worked in her field all the harder and by the week before the close of the contest she was sure of winning either second or third prize. The car Mrs. Hewis won is a 1916 six cylinder forty-five horse power Buick and the price of this car at Duluth is $1,035. Figuring that her expenses would total $200 in her campaign, she is gainer by the two months’ worth $835. Pretty good for a little smart woman, but she is one in a thousand.”
Seventy-year-old Howard Smith was born and raised in Iowa. After his working years, he settled in Deer River, but enjoyed returning to his stomping grounds every summer when he could. He didn’t mind walking but also welcomed the rides he got during the 4 days it took him to travel one direction or the other. “H.M. Smith checked in last Monday at nine a.m. from a trip to Waterloo, Iowa, and return, a distance of 1,112 miles. Mr. Smith left here May 19, packing seventy-five pounds of baggage. He reached Waterloo four and one-half days later. The return trip was made in a little over four days. Automobile drivers were kind in offering lifts. Mr. Smith is 70 years of age, and his accomplishment is much praised by his many friends. He spent ten days with relatives in Waterloo.” Itasca News 6-11-1925
My favorite story was about thirteen-year-old Hugo. I tried to find a copy of his winning poster, but the Faribault County Historical Society was unable to help me.
Hugo Hannula Wins Community Poster ~ Deer River News 11-22-1934
“Hugo Hannula, son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Hannula of Deer River, who is a student at the state school for the deaf at Faribault, Minn., recently won an enviable honor in a contest there.
The Faribault Community Chest committee last month offered prizes for the best posters submitted for their annual drive. The advanced class included students in the high school, Bethlehem Academy, and the state school. In this class, Hugo Hannula’s poster was given first prize among hundreds submitted, and was adopted as the official poster of the drive.
Hugo’s poster was 12×18 in size and shows a boy and a girl scout marching side by side with underneath the slogan, ‘Keep Us Going.’ The poster was reproduced in the Faribault Daily News on November 10th.
This newspaper, on behalf of the entire community, congratulates Hugo on his success.”
Emma, Harry Ed, Halvor, Lillian, Howard and Hugo represent only a few stories of individuals who did what they could to make something work for them. I will keep looking for anecdotes of interesting accomplishments and also acts of kindness. I hope that you can do the same and share with me stories or even snippets you have heard about your family and neighbors that could be featured in another Potato Soup for the Hearty article. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org