Neighbors: Small town life in Blabon yields rich memories
Camping out for kids in a small town meant only going into the yard - and the big adventure ended at 9 p.m. So says Carol Hanson-Berg, Detroit Lakes, Minn., who reminisces about growing up in Blabon, N.D., a Steele County ghost town featured in N...
Camping out for kids in a small town meant only going into the yard - and the big adventure ended at 9 p.m.
So says Carol Hanson-Berg, Detroit Lakes, Minn., who reminisces about growing up in Blabon, N.D., a Steele County ghost town featured in Neighbors recently.
Her memories might click with many folks who grew up in communities like Blabon.
When she was there, Blabon had about 15 families with maybe 10 to 15 children "and it seemed like one big family at times," Carol says. But, oh, the fun they had.
Camping out, she says, meant taking the blankets off their beds and forming a tent in the yard by throwing them over the clotheslines.
But their bravery had limits.
"None of us seemed interested in sleeping outside after dark," she says, "so about 9 o'clock, the blankets were back on our beds and we started all over the next day."
"I look back at living in Blabon as a time of good beginnings," she says. "The school and church were the center of our community. The small school provided the next best thing to one-on-one classroom teaching. And the church provided wonderful spiritual leadership.
"The little community worked together and helped in times of need," she says. One example concerns Carol's father, Colman Hanson, who drove the school bus for many years.
One year, however, heavy snowstorms forced Colman to use a team of horses and an enclosed sleigh to haul the students to and from school. He was aided by Everett Burchill, a farmer who told Colman to stop by his farm so the horses could get hay and rest in his barn.
Then, to be certain each child got home safely, Colman would take each one by the hand and walk him or her to the door.
When she was about 9, Carol cleaned up financially by setting up a stand in the grain elevator during the harvest and selling lemonade to the farmers. She had another fundraiser, too. She picked cattails from a nearby slough and charged the farmers a dime for the privilege of looking at them. But this didn't pay off that well; only one farmer broke down and paid to see her horticultural display.
Carol later moved on to better-paying jobs. When she was 10, she earned 25 cents a week by collecting news items from the Blabon area for the Hope Pioneer. That was the start of what became a career. She retired recently after 40 years in the newspaper industry.
Every towns seems to have "colorful personalities," and "Blabon had George Brager," Carol says.
George gave himself the title of mayor of Blabon, lived in a little shack, never had electricity, read by lantern light and had a wood cook stove, with someone always seeming to provide wood for him.
George did odd jobs for the elevator or a farmer, and he never went hungry, because townspeople often gave him meals. If he hadn't been invited for awhile, he would happen to drop by and say, "I didn't come to eat."
The reply would be something like, "Sure, George, but sit down and have something anyway." He always would. It became a standing joke in town.
George always attended church, where he'd sit in the back row and talk to himself. When the offering plate came by, he'd flick his finger underneath the plate causing any change to jump and making the ushers laugh.
A few other Blabon people Carol can't forget:
Edwin Tranby, the town handyman; Carl and Tina Monson, who ran a restaurant and often gave meals to hoboes; depot agent Gilbert Johnson, who taught Morse code to the kids, did some farming and raised exotic birds, one of which he shipped to famed radio personality Edward R. Murrow;
School custodian Ed Peterson, whose wife Vivian once helped Carol with her arithmetic and got Carol into trouble, because the teacher knew Carol had help because she did the problems the old-fashioned way; Carol's uncle and aunt, H.N. "Hokey" and Hazel Beringer, who sat in their "mosquito house," a screened-in gazebo, on summer evenings and who always had a candy bar or a cookie for the kids who came around;
Carol's mom Luella, who taught herself to play the piano through a correspondence course; and Hilda Edwardson, an educator, church organist and Sunday School superintendent who, Carol says, "was dedicated to preserving history and keeping old friendships," and who died last spring.
Those days in Blabon, Carol says, "may have been humble beginnings," but "we were taught to work hard, be honest and be kind to one another. I feel privileged to have grown up in this little town in the prairie and the memories remain dear to my heart."
Memories like those are dear to many people, Carol. Thanks for sharing them.
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