On Christmas Eve 1912

...in Mason City, Iowa, this first child, Virginia, was delivered to Mary & Clifford.

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Grandma and her brothers - Charles, Harold & Robert -- at the farm in Wood County

My dad was born in Iowa in 1883. After graduating from high school he left the farm to work on the railroad. When he met my mother he was a train conductor on a route serving Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota.

My mother was born in Minnesota in 1884. She graduated from Teacher's College and taught grade school in Southern Minnesota.

Traveling by train to visit relatives in Iowa, she was attracted to the handsome, helpful conductor. She had a cheerful personality (perhaps even a bit flirtatious) to break the studious, reserved nature of my dad. Her trips to visit relatives became more frequent as they began dating at both ends of the line.

So, on January 1, 1912, they were married.

My earliest memories began with the train rides I loved (and still do)! My mother had a pass and we took frequent short trips on my dad's line. The birth of brothers, Charles in 1914 and Harold in 1915, meant the end of those trips. The growing family also stirred a restlessness and desire to raise their family in the country, as they had both experienced in their childhood.

Thus, the move to the Wisconsin woods in the autumn of 1916. I don't know how they ever found this patch of woods on a little hill in Wood County!

How exhausted Mother and Dad must have been at the end of that day-long drive in the old Studebaker! The last turn up the hill was rough, muddy ruts and I've been told that this 3-year-old was screaming! I am sorry now to remember that in my early years I was probably a difficult child -- e.g. when I tagged along to the barn, observed where milk came from, and thereafter refused to drink it. Likewise, my witness to the source of eggs! And you know I still don't drink milk or eat eggs, except as camouflaged in other foods.

excerpted from my grandmother's 2001 memoir, "A Look Back"

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I'd sure love to share some eggs & milk -- camouflaged as a birthday cake -- with you today, Grandma!! I sure do miss you. Happy 105th Birthday!


In the 1940s...

In the 1940s (the World War II years) the demand for butter tubs and cheese boxes kept the Blum factories very busy. It took a long time before wages went up, but as foreman, Lester had to put in a lot of extra hours, many unpaid. However, his dad compensated him in other ways. A couple of times when I went to make a payment at the lumber company or on the doctor bill at the clinic, I found that big-hearted Grandpa John had paid in full! Very timely!

How did we make some extra money to keep growing (our home) and "growing" (our family)?

Lester often thought he'd rather be a farmer! I couldn't blame him, after starting as a teenager in that noisy, saw-dusty factory. But I had experienced, and knew the hardships and labors of that early farm life too well to let him make that mistake.

Making use of our extra acre gave him a taste of it, small scale! He had it plowed and planted potatoes. After lots of work weeding, hoeing, and digging he had very good potatoes, and they sold for 25 cents a bushel!

The next attempt at farming: we fenced that acre in and bought a cow. After all, we were using a lot of milk. We also made our own butter. The boys enjoyed cranking the churn and the buttermilk was wonderful for baking. When there was a surplus of milk, we let it sour to the curd stage and made our own delicious cottage cheese.

Next, "Farmer Lester" bought a pregnant pig, and it was a special family moment watching the birth of the piglets. They were raised to a marketable age, and then finally the mother pig supplied us with many good meals. We had the hams and bacon smoked and I canned some. Remember, there were no freezers then. I made lard and the surplus lard went into a batch of laundry soap from a recipe our mothers used.

Each year we bought 100 baby chicks for the boys to raise. This provided many good meals and a steady supply of eggs. There was always a market for the surplus fryers and eggs.

excerpted from my grandmother's 2001 memoir, "A Look Back"
Lester was my grandfather; John, his dad, my great granddad


Vacations at the lake

None of us ever tired of the vacations at the lake. In fact, even as I write this, 68 years after my first visit to Bear Lake, we are having a family reunion at the Turtle Flambeau (Flowage) this September weekend in 1999. All of our six kids and their families including our 9 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren will be there.

The early vacations at Bear Lake were just one week, and usually our reservation was in June when the fishing was good. The big 2-story log cabin 29 miles from the nearest town was well furnished and comfortable. This was at the end of the road and there were no neighbors around the lake then. So it was quiet and isolated.

In those early years, electricity had not yet reached that far and that presented a refrigeration problem. Grandpa Blum and Uncle Paul tried various ideas to generate power. Because it was not always successful, we packed accordingly and pioneered it for a week with canned goods and a crate of live chickens for fresh meat!

Our packing list for just one week was enough to fill a trailer -- especially the years when we needed diapers (no disposables then).

Did I say "vacation"? (It got better!)

excerpted from my grandmother's 2001 memoir, "A Look Back"

* * * * *

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The Blum Cabin at the Flowage viewed from the island

It's June 1st and I've been thinking of my grandparents. June was their month at the cabin! We would usually visit sometime in June, too.

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Vicki and Great Grandpa Sutton near the boat house on the island

...to be continued.