Northern Minnesota Village Girl

Recorded March 24, 2017 Archived March 24, 2017 44:54 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: APP307955


What my family, home, and community were like when I was growing up...
NOTE: There is an error of WHO the interview is labeled for, at the very beginning. It is NOT for Estelle Lewis in Nashville, but rather it is for Trish Lewis from St. Vincent, MN.


  • Trish Lewis

Interview By



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00:01 My name is Trish, short, Lewis. I am 57 years. Old. Today is Friday.

00:12 March 24th, 2017. And I'm speaking with Eva is still Hardwell Louis.

00:22 Who is my mother-in-law?

00:27 We are recording this interview.

00:31 In.

00:33 Nashville, Tennessee.

00:44 Tell me about your parents. What was your life? Like growing up?

00:54 My parents were Gordon short and Harriet Fitzpatrick short they were.

01:06 Wonderful people. My dad was very easy going.

01:11 He had a wonderful sense of humor.

01:15 Very hard-working, very loyal, very loving towards my mother very demonstrative like to tease her.

01:28 My mom was also a very loving person, and although

01:38 She had a lot of patience when I look back on it. Now with me as a small child, there were times.

01:50 Probably more than I realize when she lost her temper when she became stressed something that I would learn more about as I became a parent and got older myself having a similar temperament.

02:08 But as a little girl, I Shrugged it off and is a teenager. I was more irritated by it, but I

02:18 Love my mom so much that I

02:23 Should I get off in a different way?

02:28 But,

02:30 Getting back to her as a person. Not our relationship.

02:35 She?

02:40 She had a great sense of humor, too. And

02:45 Like to laugh like to visit with people.

02:55 Had a shy side but also had an outgoing side.

03:01 He was a great homemaker.

03:04 What? She learned from her mother, who she greatly admired?

03:09 Just like I admired her.

03:14 She was a great cook, a Great Baker.

03:18 I had grown up during the Depression and

03:25 Had learned.

03:27 How to make?

03:30 I things last and pinch, your pennies.

03:35 Both her and Dad.

03:38 Now I worked hard in general, but they also did a lot of things that many people during that same time did not necessarily do. And that is they

03:51 Kept a garden and kept it all the way through when I was growing up. Got somewhat smaller when I was in high school because by then it was just the three of us and but they still kept a garden. Even after I left home. They evolved fresh vegetables and fruit.

04:15 And Mom, canned and froze.

04:18 And,

04:21 Early on in their marriage. They also had livestock, they had chickens and pigs and in a cow.

04:34 Mom was an excellent seamstress?

04:37 She taught me how to sew as well as how to cook and bake.

04:43 Sadly, I was never.

04:46 As good as her never could bake bread.

04:50 Her homemade bread was amazing.

04:55 And she was so patient teaching me how to

05:00 How to do stuff as I was growing up. I remember,

05:08 Her religiously.

05:11 Keeping to a schedule.

05:15 And that was how she got her work done.

05:21 No matter what she would.

05:25 Keep me on task.

05:28 And try as I might, and I did at times to watch TV or something, she would get me back on task like washing dishes.

05:41 And I helped her wash clothes.

05:46 I helped her hang up clothes on the line.

05:51 I took the man and folded them for her.

05:55 She showed me how to iron.

06:02 She was a very independent woman.

06:06 Dad it real in early days was gone a lot out on the road for the railroad. And so she had to learn for that reason to look after things mechanical that some women may not have because of the day and age, when she was a young wife and mother, the 50s 60s.

06:30 And into the 70s.

06:37 And her mother. Her own mother was the same way. She she was very self-sufficient to

06:45 And,

06:55 My life growing up was wasn't perfect, but it was as close to idyllic.

07:03 Is possible.

07:10 I lived in a very small town called, Saint Vincent, Minnesota.

07:16 Which is in the farthest. North West County of the state?

07:22 The county that borders, Canada and borders, North Dakota.

07:28 With the Red River of the North.

07:32 Separating, North Dakota from Minnesota.

07:38 I had an order in. Kittson county is the most sparsely populated.

07:45 County in Minnesota.

07:49 I don't think it was always that way, but it is nowadays.

07:57 And it's in the Red River Valley and it's very flat except in certain spots around the river. And when you go further,

08:11 East or West, it will get hilly. But her about

08:17 50, maybe a little more miles on on either side.

08:24 It's pretty, pretty glad.

08:33 St. Vincent was never a large town when it was first thing settled. There were hundreds. And sometimes thousands of people going through it because it was a main railroad terminal at that time in the 1880s.

08:50 And into the 90s, but

08:56 The largest that ever got was about 500 people, maybe 6, I think.

09:04 And it was right across the river from Pembina North Dakota, which is the largest that ever got was like I think maybe a thousand permanent residents. I could be wrong on that. So let's say

09:18 The largest-ever the Kumon St. Vincent Metro would have been under 2,000.

09:26 But,

09:29 And then, of course, right to the Northwest Emerson, which

09:37 Maybe was another town like St. Vincent or in Pembina. So maybe another 500 will throw in there. May be more the somewhere between you know.

09:52 You know, two to three thousand people and I think that's being pretty darn generous at the height.

10:06 But, you know, it was, it was very much. Like I imagined rural Villages were like in England and may still be like, we lived on the edge of town and there was a lot of trees between us and town.

10:26 So you didn't really see much of the town.

10:33 We had just about three neighbors that we could see and they were surrounded by trees too. So we didn't see a whole lot of that damn either. And they weren't close by there across the field.

10:50 We had.

10:52 Over 10 acres.

10:54 The main SLU.

11:00 Or Wetland went through our two pastors and every spring, there was always a lot of standing water.

11:12 And on the really wet ears, it was there pretty much to some degree all summer and Cattails and other things would live there and her grow there. And we'd have waterfowl, we'd have ducks.

11:30 And geese, we even had.

11:34 Trumpeter swans come by and some cranes.

11:41 I'm doing bad flood years. We even had seagulls coming in coming over, you know.

11:57 So, you know, I was the youngest of three girls.

12:03 My two sisters were quite a bit older than me 9 and 11 years old, or did he and Sharon?

12:10 And,

12:13 So I played a lot by myself when I was really little, my Grandma had built a playhouse.

12:20 And,

12:24 It was.

12:28 It had linoleum on the floor that she had put in there and there were two windows, a big window and a small window. The small window did not open but the big window did by pulling it up then hooking it to the ceiling which was too high for me when I was little. But them.

12:50 When I got a little older, I was able to

12:54 Get on a chair and

12:57 Tippy toes. Do a

12:59 Had a screen on it to keep the bugs out. Not that, that helped a lot because the door was either open or opening and closing all the time. So we didn't do a whole lot of good.

13:16 Right. Yeah. That thing mom, help me with old curtains, and put them up. And I had an old dresser in there. That Grandma had made at a peach crates that I thought was the cat's meow. And I was able to use the old store sample that mom, bought from the old lewthwaite drugstore of an ice cream, parlor table, and set of chairs, made out of wooden curved cast iron or not cast iron. I think it was

13:54 Some sort of metal that guy and you're not, your aunt was black, but I don't think it's cast iron.

14:03 And I thought that was so cool.

14:06 And I had little dishes, I could have tea parties out there with my doll, Sally.

14:15 And,

14:18 We're on. I'd have my friends come over and we'd have a gay old time out there.

14:26 And I'd often has I said be alone and

14:31 I would play out there for a while and get bored. And then I go and explore my eyes. That was my big entertainment was exploring. And when you're small, you pay attention, you pay attention a lot better than when you grow up. When you grow up.

14:47 You forget how to pay attention, or at least a lot of us to do.

14:53 When I was able, I be watching all the bugs. I'd be looking at all the plants.

15:00 Sometimes I try and taste some of them.

15:04 Even acorns which were a bit bitter, but they were edible.

15:11 And,

15:15 Sometimes I would lay down on the grass and just look up at the sky.

15:22 And I start looking at the clouds and my mom would notice me doing it. And she say, have you ever noticed Patricia k?

15:31 That the clouds can take shapes and look like animals.

15:37 Or this or that and I take care her. I hadn't done that Mom, but you were right.

15:45 This one looks like this and then she'd get down with me and

15:50 I'd say.

15:52 This one looks like that and she says, you're right.

15:57 And she take a break from her day.

16:00 And we have a special time together.

16:04 And she taught me to see things even as a kid. I hadn't thought of to see.

16:11 She did the same thing at night. Showing me the stars in the sky.

16:17 And taught me some of the major star constellations that to this day. I would never have known about probably if it wasn't for her. In fact, she knew a lot more about them than I ever did or ever remembered.

16:37 He said that a lot of those things that she learned, she learned from her dad. She said, her mom who she loved very much was always too busy too busy working.

16:50 She said she admired her mom for that but also felt bad that.

16:56 That she couldn't slow down.

16:59 Grandma didn't know how to slow down. She had worked hard all her life since being a young girl. He never went beyond my grandma. Never went beyond the third grade and her mother died while she was a young woman.

17:19 And she had to go work out.

17:23 On the famous James J. Hill Farm is a farm girl and cook youth milk the cows.

17:33 Do some of the cooking, wasn't the only one, I'm sure it was a large farm.

17:38 Anyway, back to my life and what it was like growing up.

17:44 Growing up.

17:46 Church was a big thing for us because my mom and dad were.

17:51 Born again.

17:54 Evangelicals. I wouldn't call them the hard-nosed fundamentalists. No. Fun fire and brimstone kind know they were the

18:07 Loving compassionate. Try to walk the walk like Jesus taught, kind of Christians. They were far from perfect, but none of us are

18:18 And they were great examples, and

18:24 We went to church on Sundays.

18:28 How many times we go morning and night?

18:38 And on Wednesday nights for to prayer meeting.

18:43 And,

18:46 School was a big thing.

18:51 Programs in.

18:53 Extracurricular things like 4-H.

18:57 Fairview summer.

19:00 There was a Saint Vincent's Mall County Fair, that became known as the Saint Vincent's care in later years, and I was lucky enough to participate in that.

19:12 It's a little girl before it went away. Totally.

19:17 And it was a County Fair. Once upon a time before the county seat was taken away to Hallock. That's a whole nother story. You won't get into that the bitter rivalry between look up, look up the history on my st. Vincent blog about the the area and that's 56755. The old zip code of st. Vincent 56755.

19:52 Anyways, back to the

19:54 Story of My Life.

20:02 Yes, growing up and lots of times and on the weekends, especially on Sundays. We would go visit him as it was called. And that usually meant getting in the car and driving. And one of the big places you go visit is around the county to wear some of your other relatives, were your cousins and if you had an aunt and uncles and aunts and uncles as it was, by the time I was growing up, there were no aunts and uncles were then Sunday drive distance. Although I did get to meet some of my aunts and uncles that were further healed.

20:40 On longer trips.

20:44 And you just show up, people used to have stuff on hand all the time. They didn't mind if you showed up unannounced at all, on that. They were thrilled.

20:54 Look who just drove up. So and so it's so installed.

21:01 Great to see you.

21:02 Come on and come on in and you come on in and sometimes you had hugged and then one time sometimes they need hug and kiss people would often kiss men and women with one another, you know on the cheek usually. But women would do on the lips then and usually would shake hands. Sometimes they to hug each other.

21:31 And you'd go and sit down and the kitchen or in the

21:37 Living room and visiting was an art, everybody who had her visit. You didn't have to learn how it was just came. Natural, you catch up and find out what everybody was up to and how the crops were and how the weather was. And how this relative was or that friend was, you know,

22:04 Tell jokes share stories.

22:11 Sometimes you just sit there and companionable silence. Sometimes you'd bring fancy work with you that you work on. While you while you sat there with it was embroidery knitting or crocheting. Sometimes the Sexes would split up. The women would sing in the house and the guys would go Outdoors to look at Machinery or cars or smoke or

22:40 Spit or whatever. And

22:46 The ladies would stay in the house, and

22:51 Do their needlework or they go in the kitchen and start preparing some food? Sometimes the lady at the house, we would not allow anybody to help her. She wanted wanted to do it herself and she would just quietly slip away from the group and start getting food, ready. And if you were a good visitor, you always would notice, you wouldn't act like you were blind. And the lady was visiting, or the ladies is it? And you would always wait a little bit and then they go out and I'd say say, would you like some help and sometimes the person who would say? No, that's okay. I got everything under control. If it was something like a snack kind of thing or desserts, or she might say if he was laying out a meal.

23:46 I would really appreciate that or she said, no, that's okay. Are you going back in there and relax and enjoy yourself while being in the moment?

23:57 And one thing that you never said, no to on helping you met. They protested was on the cleanup.

24:05 Yes, he said. No to worry about you say, no, I insist. I want to help.

24:10 You know, you weren't going to win that one.

24:16 Nowadays people.

24:19 Don't expect the hell or the person doesn't even offer it in. The first place. Is it just doesn't seem like there's any manner.

24:34 What was your childhood home? Like, who else lived in the house with you? And what did your bedroom look like? Well.

24:44 The house we had was built by my grandparents in 1906.

24:51 I'm not quite sure what your these.

24:56 They neck, but I would guess it would had to have been.

25:06 Something like 1904.

25:10 I'm just saying, Circa. Maybe it was before, I don't know, but it would take some time for that house to be built.

25:18 And then to get things ready and for them to move in before they could get married and have it ready. So I'm thinking

25:30 I'm thinking that anyway, and they lived in it until 1948. I think I think I'm not sure on that. That's when my parents bought the house from my grandparents. After Dad came back from the war and mom and dad lived for a little bit with his folks. I think they were trying to get their bearings really and

25:55 Then Dad went and took a course, as they called it. They didn't call and text schools, but a trade school Under the GI bill to learn to labor fee. So he could get a job on the Railroad. And then finally, they were ready to be on their own and knew what they were doing. And then Grandpa did a

26:24 Title for deed deep but it's where the homeowner is selling the house privately to someone on a condo contract for deed. Of course, there we go under a contract and

26:46 They need faithful payments for many years. I still got the slips of paper somewhere.

26:52 Where Mom and Dad got Reese's handwritten by my grandpa.

27:00 And I got the deed to where was finally signed over.

27:10 Anyway, and they lived in that house until it was sold in 1998. So, for 50 years, they they they lived in and actually longer than my grandparents who built it.

27:24 My grandparents, by the way, in 1948. If not, before I moved up town to a nice house. I don't know whose house was before there is, but it was a beautiful small, Victorian home. I'm sure my grandma was just pleased as punch to have that place.

27:48 And it had beautiful gingerbread would work on the outside. And

28:00 A lightning rod on the roof, you know? And it was two colors cream and a dark red on the space between the roof line and the Peaks and in the house, there was a stained glass window in the front room. Window in the back door porch, the reporters on the front, in the back and the back door porch. There was as beautiful frosted glass window of a scene of a hunter and his dogs out bird hunting.

28:35 In the kitchen, there were these wonderful drawers that tilted out and you could put a 50 lb sack of flour in there.

28:46 And there was a great big basement. Well, not a great big basement. But I mean it was plenty big. It would have been perfect for a root cellar.

28:57 Attended. Unfortunately, at least at the time that

29:05 I knew it until flood quite often, but I think that was mainly because it wasn't being cared for if it had been at one time and it flooded cuz of sump pump was running, you know, living in a floodplain Plus near a river. Like we did that often flooded. There was a lot of groundwater and on what year is it was really bad. I need Red River of the north and being in a flat area at you maelzel said that Red River in the north with like denial of

29:39 Central North Central, United States. And it and it did the same thing too, because we had the most beautiful, black woman, fertile, soil.

29:55 Underneath there was some very hard nasty clay, but rocks were few and

30:04 Anyway, childhood home back to our house. Our house was had it been added on many times when it was first built. It was just maybe 20.

30:18 Feet long.

30:21 By 10 feet wide, Maybe

30:26 And it was two stories from the get-go.

30:31 The top was more like an addict. So I mean, it had slanted walls and every room.

30:40 I didn't care cuz that was the only thing I ever knew and I thought it was kind of cool.

30:47 Except when there were spiders.

30:49 Then I didn't like to go to sleep thinking that they would scare over. Top me and then slowly come down anyway, and before I was born before, I could remember. Anyway, Mom and Dad added a little a front porch, entry way. They called it. Cuz it was, it was along the whole side of this front tongue Gable.

31:19 And it was big enough for a coat rack and some little tables. Or later on. We had a few old upright piano in there too. And then they added what they call the utility room on the east side.

31:40 And that's where the little bathroom was.

31:44 And,

31:51 Washer and dryer when I was a kid. My mom had only a ringer and she had a clothes horse. And I supposed to use the clothes horse in the winter time. I'm not sure how much she ever hung outside in the winter. My grandma did my grandma was she was crazy. Hang clothes out in the winter. She is close horses to but yeah, she would do it big stuff. I think I was Outdoors night to Sheetz.

32:22 And,

32:25 Etsy.

32:27 Yeah, that would owe and there was a kitchen 2.

32:32 They had been added on.

32:34 By the time I was there, I think maybe grandma and grandpa had had done the kitchen.

32:41 And Mom and Dad did the entryway and the utility room. And then when I was in high school, Mom, and Dad added on, on the North side, I downstairs bedroom in a brand new big kitchen. It wasn't really big, but it was much bigger than the one we had. Had, the one we had, had was like a galley-style kitchen.

33:08 And I thought it was plenty big when I was a kid, but looking back. Now. I realize it was much smaller. I mean my grandparents his original house was pretty much like a, you know,

33:24 A Pioneers house, except it was instead of a log cabin. It was a crane with clabbered on it. I know when they added on in the seventies, when I was in high school.

33:41 I got to see the laugh work, the plaster and lath work. And their idea of insulation back then, which was newspapers, which was really interesting to see that and to see the handiwork of my grandparents and see some of the old news that was in the old newspapers. So that was quite an experience.

34:06 Hi, and let's see.

34:10 Or we got our first carpet ever.

34:13 And I think 1972 or 3 before that, it was only linoleum.

34:23 And,

34:26 When I was a kid, we only had a small black and white TV, and we got our first console.

34:35 Color TV a little bit before that. I think like an 1969 or 70, something like that.

34:47 And,

34:49 Who else lives with us? Will my mom and dad and my sister two sisters. We all live together up until 1966. Then my oldest sister went off to college and and Deerfield Illinois. And after another story, and then a 1968 Betty left, home after graduating and went to Tech Technical College for a year and ended up getting married, shortly thereafter and didn't come back to the area, either, but she was a little bit closer in Fargo-Moorhead, which was only

35:27 Two and a half hours away.

35:30 And,

35:32 So then it was just Mom and me and Dad so it went from 5 to 4 to 3.

35:39 And then,

35:41 I graduated in 1977.

35:45 And I went to college down where Betty lived in that same area.

35:53 And that didn't last too long mainly because I didn't have enough money to go any Wonder.

36:01 I wasn't sure. You know how to do finances and Mom and Dad were not really up on that either. So they didn't know it helped me so, but Dad did, what? He could God bless and he did what he could. He he probably would never have had the bus driving job. Except that he wanted to help me in any way he could and he got a second job driving school bus and he allowed me that money and together with his money and my summer job for a couple Summers.

36:34 And the Pell Grants and stuff. I was able to get I was able to go to college at NDSU for 1/4. They were on a quarter system then and I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep going for what I wanted. And I wasn't too sure of myself anymore. Anyway.

36:58 I would have given it a shot though. If I had had the money, I wanted to be a veterinarian.

37:07 Anyway.

37:09 Back to the subject my bedroom. What was it? Like my bedroom?

37:16 As long as I could remember, was always the East bedroom, the one that overlooked the

37:27 Clothesline.

37:30 Right below my window. It was about like 18 in by.

37:39 3, easy dinosaurs in the window, and I had to push out. When do you crank it open and it pushed out at the bottom?

37:50 Screen on the inside, obviously.

37:54 Was a slanted roof and that was the roof of the utility room. I was always too scared to try to go out on it. But in all truth, it probably would have been a very easy jump to the ground.

38:09 I always thought of it is my Escape Route in case of a fire.

38:15 And right below that, of course, we're two huge trees which towered over the house, but they started down on the ground right below there and it will be on that was the coastline.

38:31 And,

38:33 I suppose my

38:38 My room, probably thinking back on. It was only like

38:45 God, it wasn't that big. It was maybe.

38:54 Six to eight feet wide, I mean, it wasn't very wide and about.

39:05 10 12, ft long.

39:08 And had slanted roof.

39:12 On the North and the South Side.

39:17 With a little bit of a flap ceiling.

39:23 In the middle.

39:25 When I was going up, there was no light switch.

39:30 There was a single bulb in the ceiling and I was too scared to get out of bed. So Mom shredded it to the bed and I could get into bed and pull on it and

39:43 Turn the light out that was the best. They would do the Renova like that night lights. No coddling. Although as my sisters would say is there silly Daddy?

39:54 Who would not? Let me get away with this much as hearing probably did not that. I remember being spoiled, but then he swore I was

40:10 Anyway, I don't remember where I was going with that.

40:13 It was linoleum. I have one of the old twin beds at my sisters. Used to share.

40:19 My sister's used to be in the north bedroom and my parents in the west bedroom at one time. It was the other way, but when my sister's got older, when they were in high school, they let him be in that room.

40:37 And,

40:40 All the other, there were actually only two bedrooms with doors on them.

40:47 The one at the top was really, it was used as a bedroom, pretty much for most of the life of the house, but it was really a landing.

40:58 And there was no privacy. You went up the stairs, which were very skeet when I was little more like a ship.

41:09 Stairway, you know.

41:11 Almost like a combination or in between. I mean, a ladder and a stair-step mom and dad actually made them into.

41:26 Better stairs later had them redone, so it wasn't supposed to be.

41:32 Anyway.

41:36 My door before I forget the door to my bedroom was like an outdoor door and fact, the wall, the West Wall to my room. I don't think existed. When they first made the house. I think it was just all one big room.

41:59 On the house when it was first, you know, upstairs and downstairs. I know for a fact that don't serious with one big room and then they turned it into two rooms.

42:13 Mom said it one time the living room had been two rooms and I suppose for a kitchen and

42:21 Bedroom. Maybe. And then later on, they made the upstairs were finished and

42:28 And the added on and the kitchen. And then they need their the two rooms of the first part of the building into the living room. And then the upstairs was finished off and it was just one big room.

42:45 Well, to two rooms actually, I think the north was for the for Grandma Grandpa and then the other rooms were for the kids. It was just one big place, you know, kids don't need privacy. And we also used to use up Old Before I Forget before they had the bathroom.

43:06 All they had was the Outhouse and the the pot a chamber pot, but it was always called the hot. And and the winter time you use the pot.

43:21 And then you dump it out in the outhouse.

43:27 And,

43:30 In the summertime. You just use the outhouse.

43:34 And you didn't take a bath all the time. You just SpongeBob me than a basin with water.

43:43 Delete, you know, for your

43:45 Cleaning up. And then once a week, you have a a bath in a, in a tub which I saw once which was pretty darn small, you didn't lay down and that you barely have enough room to sit in it. And there was a big copper boiler and on the stove, boil up the water and put it in there and mix it with regular tap water, which was out of a pump by the way.

44:10 So when Mom and Dad got indoor plumbing boy, that was a big deal.

44:16 My grandma never did have a a bathtub or shower in her place down there. I think later in their lace gram and grandpa. Just did the sponge bathing and made do with that.

44:32 And they had a toilet in it, and in a sink.

44:36 And that was about it.

44:39 I hope you enjoyed listening.

44:43 To those two things about my life. This was a test, but it was all true.