Way Back When—Chuck Morgan

Chuck Morgan has lots of memories.

Chuck Morgan has lots of memories.

By Marcie Klomp

Over the years, Chuck Morgan worked hard and played hard. Now his body is failing him, but his mind is sharp as a tack!

Many folks may know that Morgan spent 53 of his years at the farm on the state line, but those same friends might not remember he was actually born east of Lime Springs, where Jeff Burnikel now lives. (Emerson Jones tore the house down and built the present home in 1949.)

The 84-year-old Morgan recalls running to school in Lime Springs each day. “It was 1.5 miles from my front door at home to the front door of the school. It kept me in condition.” That it did.

Although a “country kid,” Morgan played ball all through high school—football, basketball, baseball. Even after his family bought the farm on the state line, technically in the Harmony, Minn. school district, he continued school at Lime Springs, graduating in 1947.

Living that far out of town, he no longer ran to school, but “my folks let me drive the ‘41 Ford. It was a good car for the time. Once in a while I would pick up Charlene Ratcliff on the way to school.”

His senior year was a “dream” year for Morgan. “I just got done thrashing for John W. Davis, so I was in good condition. I was elected president of the class. Then came football.”

The athlete wasn’t big. He was 160 pounds, 165 with his uniform, but he was all Iowa farm boy muscle. “I played end. I was the pass receiver and received at least one touchdown pass in every game that year.”

Being from a small school, he also played on defense and led the team in defense points. “I wasn’t big, but I was a good tackler.” Tripoli found that out when Morgan played one of the best games of his life. “Lester Parry threw a spiral pass that was so easy to catch. After the first set of downs, we scored a touchdown.” By the third quarter, Morgan had caught his third touchdown pass.

“Jack North of the Des Moines Register was at the game to watch their 212-pound fullback. The first three times he got the ball I tackled him.” North couldn’t figure out how a little guy from the state line could tackle the big guy. But Morgan knew. Growing up on a farm, he used to tackle hogs and young calves! “You grab them by the knees and roll and keep rolling. They go down. And he went down!”

The score was 42-6 when the coach called for A-Squad to come in from the floor. “I sat by Tom Roberts, and I told him to take his shoes off, and I gave him mine. We had the same size shoe. He was tickled to go in.”

That year, Morgan was named Second Team All State for six-man teams—possibly the only All-Stater named from Lime Springs High School, which ended up ranking 10th in the state for six-man.

He continued to have the time of his life when basketball season began. “I wasn’t a terrific player, but I usually scored six to eight points per game.” In games against Elma and McIntire he scored his highest games with 22 points each. The team even went to Districts that year.

After basketball came baseball, where Morgan played short stop. His love of the game followed him way into adulthood.

An interesting aside is where the games were played. A person might expect everything to be played at the school. That was not the case in the mid-1940s. Football and basketball were played in the area where the water tower is located today. That hill? Football and baseball were both played on that sloping bit of land.

Basketball was played on school grounds, but not in the gymnasium. It wasn’t built until 1951. Before that time, basketball was played in the “old crackerbox,” as Morgan called it. It was really the old Welsh Church that was located on the west side of the school.

Morgan recalls, “It was good and well-built but had a hump down the middle of the floor. You had to watch where you were dribbling. There was one row of folding chairs along the wall.”

Without television, computers or video games to play, folks back in the day found other ways to amuse themselves. One of them was playing basketball. A favorite game was the school boys against the businessmen.

Morgan said his team lost to the town team, but there was a reason for it. “They had some pros they moved into town. Where the Jews (Hy Rosenbloom and Jacob Kemp) had a produce, they brought in some college players.”

Graduation came and guess who was valedictorian. Yep—Chuck Morgan. He spoke at the Junior-Senior Banquet and gave the Valedictorian Presentation. Both were honors, he said.

Things change. There is no football field, high school, produce business or town basketball games. There also is no longer a train going through Lime Springs, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one!

Morgan remembers how the train would go through and left mail for the town on a hook as it zoomed past. He recalls how the train went from Lime Springs to Cresco about mile south of his homeplace.

In winter many times it would get stuck and passengers would go to the John Carrol place to keep warm. In the early years, men would be brought from town to help shovel out the big trains.

Men were also brought to the hill leading to York Township in Minnesota. “In 1950, the road filled in with snow and men came from Lime Springs to shovel out the hill because they wanted the York business.”

Morgan described how a snow plow came from the bottom and pushed until it stopped. Men would then shovel the snow to the side of the road, and the plow would go up again.

The folks from the York area used to do much of their business in Lime Springs rather than going to Spring Valley or Harmony. Morgan said the reason was because Lime Springs was a very prosperous town. There were four stores, two cafes and three filling stations.

Morgan and his family shared their business with many of the stores. He remembers Price’s more than the others. “Tom Price. If you bought $5.00 worth of groceries, he’d throw in a nickel’s worth of chocolate stars.” He said the other stores might have done the same thing, he just couldn’t remember for sure.

He also recalls the office as it sat perched above the dry goods floor and that shoes were all stored in the basement.

He has a faint memory of there being a bowling alley further down Main Street from Price’s.

For his fourth birthday, there was a big party at Brown Park. To show how times have changed, when it was time to take pictures, three or four of the kids were too bashful, so they hid from the camera!

First National Bank used to be located where Lindstrom Funeral Home is now. That was where Morgan’s family banked. “I had a little savings account, maybe $12.00-16.00. The last year, I got three percent on that! Now look at it.” A barbershop was housed below the bank with the barber being a man named Young.

First National was later bought out by Exchange State Bank (which was bought out by C US Bank).

For entertainment, Morgan usually went to Chester because they had dances every Saturday night. “I liked to dance,” he added.

Lime Springs,’ or more specifically Old Town’s, main business through the years has been the mill. Morgan recalls driving a team of horses into town from the farm east of town. It was a triple box wagon, meaning it was three boards high. “I put it on the scale, and it tilted so all the oats ran out into a pit. Then I drove off. The oats were ground into feed and then came out of the pipe and back into the box.”

The mill was run by Herman Lidtke, but Morgan said, “His boys (Roy, David, Paul and Charles) could run it about as good as Herman.”

He has a soft spot for the mill since his mother lived in the mill house for three to four years when her grandfather, Fred Salisbury, ran it.

Farming has seen many changes since the young 12-year-old Morgan used to cultivate with a team of three horses.

His love of fast-pitch softball kept him busy over the years. After graduation he started playing third base at York for seven years and at Lime Springs for 11 years. He played until he was 36. Then he started umping.

He has served the public well, by umping games, teaching religion for nine years, being a 4-H leader for nine years, being on York Township board for 18 years, being on Fillmore County Township Officer for 12 years and boards at St. Stephen’s Church in Chester for six years.

No wonder his body is getting tired!

Over the years, Chuck married twice. He has been married to Emily for the past 34 years. He had six children (Rick of Jordan, Minn.; Mary of Lime Springs; Joe of Lake City, Minn.; Tim of Rochester; Tom of Hamden, Conn.; and Sue, who passed away in 2009. He has been blessed with 20 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

He is proud to have had a Lime Springs address for 70 years. After retiring, he and Emily moved to Harmony in 1999. He is currently on Hospice but still enjoys hearing from friends. No regrets.

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