Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Missing influential people...

Posted 8/01/17 (Tue)

Do you ever think about people you knew as a child? These are people from your hometown or from visits your parents made to other communities.

As a young child, my hometown, Hazelton, seemed like such a big place to me, but it really wasn’t. This community in Emmons County has lost half its population in my lifetime, but then the population peaked at 500 in 1960.

There were, however, plenty of people who had all kinds of personalities, some that I remember quite well, even though it’s now more than 50 years on, as the British would say.

First there was the local police officer, Richard Schuette who my parents called “the marshal.”

He is long retired, but my goodness, he seemed like a very intimidating type of law enforcement officer to a small child. If we would so much as step off the sidewalk, he threatened to jail us for jay walking, a clever tactic that most likely kept us out of jail because as we grew up, we kept thinking if we broke the law, “the marshal” would get us and stick us in jail.

Hazelton had an old bachelor named Ted Ash who, from what I understood, worked with my dad many years earlier.

He lived in a small house and few people visited him because in the winter, when you stepped into his house, it was incredibly hot, like a sauna. I delivered newspapers to his house and remember his thermostat was set at 90 degrees.

There were several old German ladies who my mom would hang out with. They were the ones who looked like the ladies in the Kroll’s Diner commercials.

They were all very good-hearted women and some of the meals they prepared were incredible. These were the women who were part of the three churches in Hazelton and often cooked meals at funerals. But I suspect their expertise was handed down generations before them from the “old country.”

Ben Kalberer died when I was a little kid. He didn’t live in town but he did a lot for the community. Every Christmas he would pay for a sack of goodies for every child and many of us still think he actually dressed up as Santa Claus. There is now a bronze statue of him in the school.

We would always see an old guy named Stramer at baseball games. We never saw him around town but somehow he knew our game schedule. He spent winters in Costa Rica, but I thought he always lived there. So when I was out there playing first base, I would think if Mr. Stramer made the effort to come to our baseball game from Costa Rica, I can make a better effort as an infielder.

Lorraine Stoller worked as a cashier at the local grocery store. She had a falling out with the owners, so she built, stocked and managed her own grocery store.

Our local restaurant owner Catherine Rosendahl had the best caramel rolls this side of the Red River. That was her draw, but then she started aging and her son Duke came up with a great idea.

He made pizzas in the cafe, selling so many he couldn’t keep up. He later opened Duke’s Pizza in Linton and for many years that was the happening place in Linton.

Catherine was  a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan since her roots were somewhere in Illinois. Her cafe was also the place where my teammates and I watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon after baseball practice on July 20, 1969.

Everybody loved Vivian McCallister, our first-grade teacher. We actually talked about her during our recent 40-year high school reunion. That’s how influential she was. Going into the first grade can be a scary thing and she was a gifted teacher who knew how to calm small children.

My parents had a good friend, Clarence Haggard, who was one of the last Non Partisan Leaguers in North Dakota. I remember him talking about the League and how it helped North Dakota. I still feel privileged to have known someone personally connected with the most influential part of North Dakota political history. He also had lollipops when we came to visit.

George Corbin was a local mechanic who lived on the banks of the Missouri River, not far from the Haggard farm. With no formal education or training, George was a brilliant mechanic who could fix anything from lawn mower engines to combines. He had the knack and the patience to do it.

He was also a little quirky. He would sit in his house, late at night with the lights off, listening to distant AM radio broadcasts.

In some way, every one of these people, and many more, had some influence on me as a child and helped shape my life as I grew up. Some were odd but good, trusting people and I miss them all dearly.