Way back when . . . second part

Harold Munkel with the churn he used to make butter when he was kid.

(Editor’s note: In preparation of Lime Springs’ Sesquicentennial in 2018, the Herald is asking residents to remember ‘Way back when . . .’)

Harold Munkel has lived in Lime Springs most of his 88 years, all except when he worked at Hormel and was in World War II.

He gives some insight into what young folks did for fun growing up in the 1930s. One thing that may surprise the younger generation is where the school kids played ball. Softball and football were played in the block where the water tower is located.

Home plate was located on the northwest corner of the first Spring Apartment, across from the Crofton home. When asked, he said, “Noooooo. They didn’t have bleachers.” Spectators stood or sat on the ground.

The younger kids played ball on the school grounds, where the field is today and many football practices were held on school grounds also. But the six-man football games were played at the water tower park. The team traveled to other towns.

It didn’t take him long to get to the ball field because he lived across the street from the park, in what is now the Bowen house. When not in use, the Munkel family and others in the neighborhood used the park to feed their cows and horses.

That’s right, most residents had a barn with a cow, a horse or horses and maybe chickens. One fellow even had a couple pigs each year, Munkel said. His family had a cow and a couple horses. “My dad and brothers and Willard Lloyd would take the horses into Minnesota to bale hay and then they shipped the hay.”

Another use for the park was where “Toby Shows” were held. The Vaudeville-type acts would come around to give shows. They put up tents at the park and in Brown Park. Betty, Harold’s wife remembers, “One time they stayed for the winter. They played in the theatre and stayed in the Corner Cafe building (the corner where the town sign and can donation kennel are located).”

Other activities kept Munkel, his brothers and his friends, the Bergans, busy in the summer. “We hunted and fished a lot. We’d take off down the railroad tracks and go clear to where the Fish & Game Club is now. We’d fish for a few hours and head home with a big stringer of fish. That’s back when we had a good river,” he recalled.

To keep himself in candy bars and shotgun shells, he and brother Lawrence would catch pigeons at farmer’s places. “We’d go to a silo and rig up a burlap sack in the day. At night, we would cover the window with the sack, so the pigeons couldn’t get out and then we’d catch them.”

The family would eat some but he could also get 10-15¢ per pigeon at the creamery. They also kept the pretty ones. “By the time I went to World War II, we had about 200 of them.”

Another way to make money was to sell jack rabbits to the Mann Bros. who had a store where the Corner Cafe used to sit. He doesn’t remember what else was in the store.

Even as a young lad, Munkel had good credit. “If I needed a box of shotgun shells—they were 15¢ a box—I’d charge it at the Morris Williams Implement business (located about where the bank is today).”

He got his candy bars at Wells’ I.G.A. (where Gates Upholstery is located today) for a nickel a bar.

Many days were spent going down to Old Town for summer and winter fun.

“We’d go to Bob Evans’ place (the Randy Cray residence across from Lidtke Park). There was a point and that’s where most of kids learned to swim.” Kids will be kids, and he and his friends would dive off the bridge. The old bridge used to cross the river between Lidtke Mill and the Roy Lidtke home and come out about where the boat dock is located today.

“On the main deck of the bridge was a plank we used as a diving board. It was about 12 feet above the water and the river was about 12 feet deep there. We’d dive off and try to swim across the river with one breath. Some of the kids would jump off the very top of the bridge.”

He remembers a man named Billy Coons used to have a house in the park about where the pump is located and there was another bridge near where the entrance to the park is now.

Harold said a lot of houses used to be down at Old Town. He had a classmate who lived in a house just east of the maintenance shed and there were several houses where Gene Pisney and Randy Kessler live now.

“When we were kids, the farmers would haul their grain into Lidtke Mill. We’d hook on the runners and ride down with them to hang out, go ice skating or whatever, and hook on another runner that would carry us back into town.”

Besides skating at the river, there was an ice skating rink in town. It was where his brother Stanley used to live, which is just south of Wanda Knutson’s home. “The city would pump water into it,” Harold said.

Sometimes, he would go play cribbage at the station where Tank & Tummy is now. He also hung out at Lee Teach’s shop, which is where Wemark Chiropractic is today. Just south of Teach’s was Merten’s Shoe Shop and then O’Connor’s bar and lunch stand.

Harold remembers a tragedy that took place one day. “Some of us kids were visiting Lee Teach when the train came through slow. Tudor Price tried to cross and he fell and had his legs cut off. He died the next day.” Harold didn’t see the accident, but it made a lasting impression on the young boy.

The boys would also go to Royce Jones’ butcher shop, which was on the hill by Ryon Bros. “He smoked meat there, and you could hang it in your basement for a year and it would never rot.”

Jones also had an ice house behind the meat locker (now Lime Springs Herald). Harold and his friends would sneak inside and break off pieces of ice to suck on.

The years passed, and Harold grew into an adult. During high school, he would work for a farmer. The first year he got $20 plus room and board for the summer. He would work hard and come into town with the farmer on Wednesday or Saturday nights when the stores stayed open late, and everyone enjoyed the music of the local band at the bandstand, located at the five-way intersection on Main Street. Sometimes he’d walk back to the farm.

Twenty bucks a month wasn’t enough for the young Munkel. The next year, he asked for $14 per week and got it.

After graduation he started working at Hormel in Austin for $45 per week, which seemed a fortune. He would take the train to Austin on Sunday night and hitchhike home on Friday afternoon. “You could get home quicker by hitchhiking, and the salesmen weren’t afraid to pick up hitchhikers at that time,” he explained.

Harold went from $45 per week to $50 per month, when he was drafted. By the time he was honorably discharged from the Army as an anti-aircraft artillery soldier, he was making $94 per month.

After the service, he went into the construction business with his dad and brothers. Eventually it was just him and brother Pete. The brothers built many homes within a 40-mile drive. He also built three of the homes his family has lived in including Mel Johnson’s home, Steve Schroetter’s home and their current home.

The family also built St. Stephen’s Church in Chester. “My brother Gene would mix mortar for 10 hours a day for the bricklayers,” he reminisced.

Harold Munkel has left his mark on Lime Springs, but the town has also left its mark on him. And, he wouldn’t have it any other way.


One Response

  1. I enjoyed the story about Lime Springs. I took my motorome and you
    came to visit with me in the park.
    i am in an assisted living here in clearwater, Fl and very happy with
    my new family of 45 residents.
    Jim Denis

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