Here is a Wisconsin farm girl’s story from 1922, sharply recalled eight decades later.
The storyteller was my mother, Helen Williamson, who grew up in this region and attended a one story country school, very similar to the Camp Nine School at our Heritage Center. I love to picture her as a sensitive young girl, so very troubled by the theft of a pin. – Sara DeLuca
The Hat Pin
I got my first real dolly on my seventh birthday. Until that time I had played with corncob babies wrapped in scraps of cloth, but now—a doll with facial features, life-like hair, soft body, arms and legs! I named her Emily. Mama sewed a dress for her— a plain blue serge that seemed to beg for decoration.
At Christmas time we went to town, five miles by sleigh, to visit Great Aunt Bertha. She had a taste for finery—lace doilies, china cups and saucers, porcelain figurines. (No touching, Mama said.) Great Aunty also had an indoor bathroom— running water, flushing toilet—and I used it frequently that afternoon. From there I slipped into the bedroom, admired a rack of fancy hats, beaded and feathered, and a tiny cushion on the bureau studded with sparkling pins. Standing tiptoe I could barely reach. I fingered one with crystal roses, another topped by an emerald butterfly. The one that really caught my eye held a small glass bluebird and it seemed to fly into my hand, nest in my pocket.
(The perfect ornament for Emily!)
All the way home it poked me painfully. That night I tried it on my dolly’s dress and it looked fine. But who could I show it to? I hid the pin beneath my mattress, out of sight,
not out of mind. It pricked my conscience until spring.
Our Easter horse-and-buggy ride to Great Aunt Bertha’s house was long and bumpy, sharp with misery. Again the hatpin rode in my pocket. Finally I would have a chance to make things right. I watched and waited nervously, then stole, like the thief I was, into the bedroom. I had grown over winter and could reach the pincushion easily.
I let the bluebird go— dropped it deep into that glassy forest. I was free.
image credit: “hat pins” by Jean L. is licensed under CC BY 2.0
On Tuesday, September 12, 2017, three volunteer guides brought Heritage Center artifacts to residents of Our House, an assisted living home in New Richmond.
The informal program, presented by Avalene Swanson, Wayne Tubbs, and Sara DeLuca, included a display of several household items used in decades past. Residents were encouraged to share personal memories regarding these common tools of daily living.
Items included: rug beater; ball of fabric strips (used for making braided rugs); feather duster; hot water bottle; sad iron and early electric iron; sprinkling bottle (used for dampening clothes before ironing; corn sheller; ceramic crock and wooden masher; canning jar; jar of recycled buttons; milk bottle; coal and ash shovel; embroidery hoop; darning egg (for mending socks); fur muff (a fashionable means of warming the hands); World War II biscuit tin.
Nine residents (ranging in age from 80 to 102), one visitor, and several staff members enjoyed sharing stories prompted by these objects. They recalled that daily chores were hard and long. Yet there was real satisfaction in contributing to the well being of family and community. Nothing was wasted. “Recycling” was not a common term in those days, but everything was well used, conserved and re-purposed whenever possible.
For example, the heavy sad irons, which became obsolete with the advent of electric irons, made fine doorstops or bookends. They could also be heated in the oven and wrapped in towels to warm a chilly bed.
The glass milk bottle prompted a special memory for one gentleman who grew up in Minneapolis. As a young boy, he often rode along on his father’s milk route, helping deliver bottled milk throughout the city neighborhoods. The horses knew the route well and needed little guidance.
Several ladies with country backgrounds remembered bringing the cows home from pasture, feeding, milking, separating the milk, whipping the cream and churning the butter.
The darning egg was well remembered. Socks with holes in heel or toe were not thrown out but were skillfully “darned” for further use. Someone recalled that mother sometimes slipped a light bulb inside the socks she was mending, which helped her make expert repairs.
The Mason canning jar stirred images of large gardens, fall harvests, canning chores, colorful rows of fruits and vegetables lining the cellar shelves, “put by” for winter.
Everyone recalled the chamber pot – a welcome alternative to the outhouse, especially on cold winter nights.
Avalene, Wayne, and Sara also shared photographs of the Heritage Center buildings, describing the collections displayed inside.
Since many residents in assisted living homes and extended care facilities are unable to tour the museums in person, it is gratifying to bring selected items to them and encourage the sharing of personal memories and a common history.
Faces light up. Stories begin to flow. For this volunteer guide, it is an ample reward.
- Sara DeLuca
On Wednesday, August 23, The New Richmond Heritage Center held their annual membership and appreciation dinner to say thanks to members and volunteers.
Paul Mayer, the board president, kicked off the proceedings with a heartfelt thank you from the Heritage Board to the room of over 100 members and volunteers. “In June of 1899, when the cyclone devastated New Richmond, this community had two choices,” Mayer said. “They could pick up and move or they could rebuild. They chose to rebuild. That’s who we are. The volunteers and members in this room understand the importance of that legacy and are willing to donate their time, talent and treasure to make sure that is carried forward. For that, we are all grateful.”
After incoming board members were elected, each member shared committee achievements for the past year and how all the support and participation from the community had made an impact.
Many thanks go to those individuals and businesses who contributed to the event. Dessert Sponsor – Culver’s
Door Prize Sponsors: First National Community Bank, WESTconsin Credit Union, Bremer Bank, New Richmond Golf Club, 45th Parallel, Shoots & Stems Floral, Countryside Plumbing & Heating, New Richmond Utilities, Westfields Hospital & Clinic, Bernard's Northtown, General Beer Northwest, Covet, Fantastic Sams, Garden Expressions, New Richmond Dental, Simply Staffing, Table 65, Xcel Energy, WITC, Angela Olson Law, Beth's Jewelry Shop.
It would be tackled on a Saturday
When all four daughters were at home to help.
Mama ran the job, rewarding speed and sunny dispositions
with sweet-smelling chores like pegging clothes out on the line,
or gathering in.
That wasn't me.
I usually sorted dirties in great heaps upon the kitchen floor,
never mastering the complex rules concerning weight of fabric,
color, odor, depth of dirt. Towels go in this stack, Mama said,
unless they're red or purple -- those make a separate load --
they won't be colorfast. Sheets, pillowcases here,
school clothing there, except for underwear.
Check crotches carefully. The stained ones get a special soak and scrub.
Now start that tub of whites – no, not those smelly shirts --
they'll wait till near the end. And barn pants, overalls, go last.
The sorting, soaping, dashing, wringing, bluing,
rinsing, wringing, rinsing, wringing again,
the hanging, drying, taking down and folding up consumed our day.
We finally saw the last foul load of overalls go in.
Oshkosh B'Gosh went churning in a gray-blue soup
garnished with straw. They crawled up through the wringer,
somewhat cleaner, though I wondered how.
Their buckles caught between the rollers,
made them gasp and stall and fly apart.
An easy fix, said Mama, to my great dismay.
The washer drained out slowly, clogged by a silty mix of soil
chaff, manure and broken buttons, stones and screws
We made pancakes for supper, too weary for the usual roast or stew.
That was some job we did today! chirped Mama.
Don't you feel good?
We rolled our eyes and sighed, Sure do.
Our farmhouse telephone looked like a creature
born of wood and wire.
Square-headed, it was fitted out with bulging silver eyes,
a long black beak connected to a flaring mouth,
a pair of mismatched ears –
cylindrical receiver dangling down the left side,
short metal crank protruding from the right.
It shrilled all day from its position on the kitchen wall,
a different ring for every family on the party line
and there were twelve of them.
We knew them all.
that brought four daughters running hopefully.
The calls were usually for Mama,
who fluffed her hair out with a nervous hand,
tucked in her blouse and smiled
as if her friends could spy right through the snout.
- Sara DeLuca
A longtime Heritage Center tradition continues with volunteers sharing bits of history in each of the buildings with area school children. This spring, approximately 960 children plus teachers, assistants and guests visited from New Richmond, Amery, Barron, Cornell, Hudson and Somerset. The tours begin in the Pavilion with an introduction to early New Richmond, farm life and the 1899 cyclone display. Camp 9 School is always a favorite, probably because it is most connected to their lives. Other popular buildings are the Immigrant Cabin, Ubet Store, History Shed, Bell Tierney Farm House and the Blacksmith Shop.
Volunteer involvement is key to the success of the tours. Prior to "tour season" a training was held for new and continuing guides which included a "walk about" in all of the buildings with a brief description in each building. This spring, twenty people graciously shared their time as a guide or shadowed another guide. New guides are always welcome.
Heritage Center tours are not just for children. CONSIDER A TOUR. Schedule a guided tour in one of our buildings or several buildings. Our guides can easily adapt a tour to accommodate your family or organization.
There are many areas and opportunities for volunteers at the New Richmond Heritage Center. Send an email to info@NRHeritageCenter.org with your area of interest.
Heritage Center Celebrates