Edwin Corrigan Letter 1995 - Part 2
While I was in the service, we lost our brother Clayton in Iron Mountain due to leukemia. He had been ailing for some time and had been taking some treatments in Green Bay. He left his wife, Lena (Magdelene) and four children. That was on Sept. 8, 1943 (ironically, brother Harry died on that same date in Sept. 1986.) Sister Clarice passed away in July of 1955 at Iron Mountain. She was plagued with cancer of the pancreas. We had just moved from Wisconsin Rapids to Glidden, WI where I assumed the position of High School Principal. The grades and high school were in the same building, so I had charge of all students. I was always called Superintendent, but really I was a supervising principal under the County Superintendent. Our daughter, Lynn, was born on March 26, 1956 at Parkfalls, WI. Esther had been under the care of a doctor there as it was the closest hospital, Ashland 40 miles north was much farther. Incidentally, we were fortunate to have the 16 miles to go when Esther went into labor. We were doing supper dishes and she complained of some pains. So, I said “Let's get going,” even though Lynn wasn't due for over a month. Never having had a child, I guess something told me to grab a towel. It was in the spring and our roads then had many frost boils. As we hit one Esther warned me to slow down, then when on even ground I would speed up. As we got to the hospital a nurse came out with a wheelchair and put me in a room and took Esther to the delivery room. Of course, I thought it would surely be a false alarm, but lo and behold, we were there only about 15 minutes. I was reading a sports magazine, very unconcerned, when the nurse came in and said, “You have a baby daughter!” She was about 6 weeks early and had to stay in the nursery for about two weeks. Seeing her later, you would never know that she was a premee.
Believe it or not, we stayed there nine whole years. Those were challenging years, but very interesting. I think I set the record for principals in the number of years. We were well accepted as many people knew me, as I had supervised in the grade and high schools for many years before. I knew all the teachers and found that they were good workers and very cooperative. We had many good times there and still go back over the Fair week in September each year and get there off and on. We have so many friends in the area, but as time goes on we don't see many people we know. Our trips back to Ashland, we see very few people we know – of course, as of now (1995) we have been gone 31 years. When we moved to White Pine, I was Elementary Principal, we expected to here about five years, but I held that Elementary job for 11 years and we've been here now for over 31 years. I thought it was time to retire after 46 years of public service, including three and on-half years in WWII in the Air Force – state side!
In the Air Force I was an instructor in an airplane maintenance school for about a year and a half. Then went to an instructors school at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas. From there I was sent to Parks Air College in East St. Louis, Illinois. There I was an airplane inspector of the small Fairchild planes that were used to train cadets. I was also in charge of the engineering department and kept track of maintenance on all of the 105 planes we had. When that operation ended in June of 1944, I was sent to South Plains Army Air Field at Lubbock, Texas. I was there only a short time, when orders came through transferring me to another primary flying school at Cuero, Texas. When I arrived there I found the young captain who had charge of the field in East St. Louis and some other personnel from there. He has been transferred there and made arrangements to have the dependable men he knew transferred to his command. That field closed in November 1944 and I was transferred to Sheppard Field at Wichita Falls, Texas only to find out that it was a training center for recruits. Referring back to South Plains, Texas. This was a base where they were training pilots to fly gliders. The large gliders were towed up into the air and let loose to glide on the currents. Many would stay up for hours choosing various currents to maintain their height. Many of these gliders were made in Iron Mountain and the Ford Plant. Earlier, when back on a furlough, I visited the glider plant and encountered both Maurice and Clayton working on the gliders. Never knowing then, that I would be at a glider base. When I left Sheppard Field, I was transferred to a B24 base in Liberal, Kansas. There I took more training and became a mechanic on these 4-engine planes. Many had been returned from the South Pacific. I had a crew who worked only on the landing gear, brakes and hydraulics. Each crew had a special thing to do. Some on engines only, others on radio and electronics, etc. I stayed there from December 1944 until October 1945. Japan had surrendered in August and being close to 35, I was sent to Truax Field in Madison, WI and was at the separation center on my 35th birthday and was discharged on October 5th. Found out that the University of Wisconsin was playing football with Northwestern, I stored my two barracks bags, with all my belongings, and went to the game. Took the train after the game to Milwaukee and went to Ethel and Eddy's. They were just going into the grocery business, so I stayed a few weeks to help. Then went to Detroit to see Sadie, Bea and Harry, Ag and Joe (half-sister) and Mary and Bill (half-sister.) Also had a date with my old high-school girlfriend – to a stage show downtown Detroit – Harry lent me his car.
I returned to Milwaukee, then to Iron Mountain and then to Ashland. When I got back to Ashland, I didn't have a home! So I went to Aunt Claire's and stayed awhile. Later, I got the front bedroom of our house that we sold on Ellis Ave. This was originally Ma and Dad's room. So, being back there, I felt at Home again. Recall many of the good times we had in the big house. I didn't go back to my supervising teacher's position until January 1, 1946. So I had two months then of loafing around. I finally got a car from a young fellow I had had in grade school and in my scout troop. It was a 1937 Ford V-8. Used that on my work until in early July I was able to buy a new Plymouth. That was the car I mentioned earlier that we took the Sanborn scout troop out to Yellowstone in.
Going back to the earlier times when the folks moved from Sanborn to the little house at the Summit in Ashland in the spring of 1905, as Clayton was born in June. I mentioned that the property contained a large building which was formerly a saloon and dance hall. It had quite a large bar room petitioned off from the dance hall part. The Town of Sanborn bought the building and it became the Town Hall. It was used for dances, town meetings and even as church for an Evangelist – who held a revival meeting there. The annual town meeting was held in April and the elections were also held there. The Town of Sanborn at that time encompassed about a fourth of the Ashland County. It included all the land south of the Ashland city limits and east to the Iron County line – a distance of about 18 miles. This included the very large Bad River Indian Reservation. The Indians had to come from Odanah to the town hall to vote. As a kid I recall when the Indians came over to vote, we were afraid of them. It so happened that on election day the saloons were to be closed. However, some of the Indians go some liquor by way of the back door of of the saloon that was across from us and the town hall. Some times when we came home for Shores Clearing we would find some Indians sleeping on the side of the hall. A few inmbied [sic] too freely. Somehow or other they got back to the reservation. As the farming population increased in the area, the area we were in drew away from the Town of Sanborn and became the Town of Gingles. Mr .Gingles was the town chairman and other local men were members of the town board. Shortly after that, the area south of us, which contained the Village of Sanborn, broke away and became the Town of White River. The town board met at the hall during the warmer months and then met in the homes of some of the board members during the colder months. There were four smaller rooms on the north side of the building which were used as a cloakroom, a kitchen and two smaller storage rooms. During dances the sponsors served sandwiches and coffee – sandwiches were ten cents and coffee was a nickel.
Around 1916 or so, several members of the area formed what was called the White River Athletic Club with headquarters at the hall. They had a baseball team made up of farm boys and once in awhile would get some players from Ashland. They bought a mat for wrestling, boxing gloves, a punching bag and then a couple of basketballs. So they started a basketball team which played in the dance hall part of the building. The room had only a 12-foot ceiling, so very few shots were made from any distance out from the baskets. I recall that none of these farm boys had gone to high school, nor any of them had played basketball. Hence, their games became very rough, almost like football. I recall that Maurice got knocked out in one of the games. The soon found out that the playing area was too small, so one Sunday afternoon they decided to tear out the petition between what was formerly the bar room and dance hall part. So, without permission from anyone they began ripping out the partition. Somehow, someone got word to Mr. Gingles, the town chairman, what was happening. He lived only a short distance and came over and really chewed the fellows out and made them stop. The damage had already been done so Mr .Gingles then hired my Grandfather Firmenich to put in an arch to support the ceiling. At that time we still didn't have electricity out in our rural area so Grandpa put two shelves on either side of the partition to put lamps in. Shortly after that the Coleman gas lamp and latern came in being. This was such a better system that helped a lot with the game. As the lamps ran out of air pressure, they would stop the game, pump in more air, or ever put in more gasoline. The team didn't have a regular referee, so they would call on any timid soul to referee. So many of those early games turned into football. As I recall, none had attended high school where they could have gotten some experience in their gym classes. This hall proved to be a boon to us kids as we grew up, as we could go aver and play when it was raining. Seems that most of the time hall had one door open. When there was to be a dance someone would call my mother and ask if we would sweep out the hall. I guess we were rewarded by allowing 'us kids' to stand in the side room when orchestra started playing – dances started at nine, but generally didn't get into full swing until near ten. As soon as many people came, we were beckoned back to our house and off to bed. Before the prohibition days, the saloon across the way sold whiskey in unlabeled bottles, pints or half-pints. They were filled from a large barrel and the empty bottle were returnable. On Sunday morning before we went to church we combed the area for empty bottles. We would wash them and take them to the saloon (to Mr. Talaska) and we got once cent for half-pints and 2 cents for the pints. Those pennies found their way into the glass-jarred Spanish peanut machine. You would put a penny in, push the little handle and get a small cup of peanuts. If we had an extra nickel we would get a Hershey bar! After prohibition, when Roosevelt was elected, many taverns opened up. Of course, from 1918 to 1932 , moonshine and home-brew became the forbidden drink. However, many of the farmers found they could distill moonshine, and it wasn't long when the drinkers found where to procure 'moon' and home-brew. So called 'blind pigs' grew up in former saloons.
Getting back to the town hall, we had many parties there for the younger folks. The earlier dances were waltzes, two-steps and square dances. Mother taught us kids how to waltz and all of us later took in a lot of dances. Recall that one day the back door of the hall was left open and one of our cows made her way onto the floor and left several splotches – her trademark! Of course, us kids had to get busy and clean up the mess! We didn't get electricity out into the town until the summer of 1923.
I can't remember very much of the happenings prior to five or six. I can recall faintly that Pa used to come in the house, especially in the winter, and make himself a “hot toddy.” He would take a cup glass and put some whiskey and add hot water and I think some nutmeg. When the kitchen fire was out, Mother would put the teakettle on the heater stove in the dining room. It was a Round Oak and to me it was huge. It stood away from the wall by a few feet and I recall that we would stand between the stove and wall to get warm. The dining room (also the front room) had a register in the ceiling above the stove that let heat come up into the bedrooms. During the winter, the fire downstairs would burn out, leaving the house very cold. Mother would take a glass of water in case she got thirsty during the night, but many mornings the glass had ice in it. When we got up we would stand over the register in the bedroom to get warm while we dressed. After Pa died, Maurice was the one who got up and built the fire and the kitchen stove and the heater stove. He was the one that made sure we had wood for the fires. Although sometimes when we came home from school and would have to go out in the shed and 'buck' wood for the night and the next day. On weekends he would go over to a neighbor's woods and cut trees down and have them hauled to the back of the house. I believe Gingles had a saw rig that was run by a one-cylinder gas engine that would run the circular saw to cut the wood. Most of the wood was 'poplar', a very soft wood that burned quickly, however, sometimes some stumps from the early cuttings were brought in and when sawed up and split made the kindling for starting fires.
There was also the chore of splitting the wood into smaller pieces, especially for the cook stove. Then each night after school we had to haul wood into the shed and into the house. The wood was piled back of the kitchen stove. When we got the trees and were ready to cut the wood, several of the neighbors would come and help. Us kids were real happy when we would come home from school and find that we had a big wood pile back of the house. In addition to the poplar wood, Maurice would take the team and go downtown to one of the many saw mills and bring home 'slab wood' which was already cut into stove lengths and was used for kindling and for cooking.
I understand that at one time there were 14 saw mills along the bay in Ashland. When the lumbering business died out, the iron ore shipping took over. We had four large ore docks with most of the ore coming from the Gogebic [?] range in Ironwood, Hurley and other towns in that area. We had one blast furnace in the west end of town. When I was about ten, I went with the Solbergs, neighbors, down at ten o'clock in the evening when they were running molten iron out of the furnaces. That was a sight to behold. Each night the skies were reddened with the light from the smelter. The hot iron was run into small sand-ridged compartments (some of this sand came from our sandpit.) It was called 'pig iron' as the uneven shapes about 2 ½ feet long and maybe 4 to 8 inches wide, were compared to a mother pig and her little ones nursing. The were loaded onto a narrow-gauge railroad and that went under the two streets and on down to Chicago and Milwaukee or other down lakes ports to be refined into steel. The furnace did not run long after about 1921 or so, as it was cheaper to send the ore down to the cities in Ohio, etc, than to ship the coal up to run the smelter. One of the high smoke stacks still remains as a beacon to the smelting business.
Ashland, at the heads of the lakes, became quite a railroad town. Shipping out ore was a big industry. Trains with man carloads of ore were backed up onto the docks and emptied into pockets, which held tons and tons. When the ships came in they were brought up close to the docks so that the shoots could be lowered to allow the order to pass into the holds. Where we lived we could hear the trains bringing ore to the docks and look out our back bedroom window and see the lights on the docks. The boats would come in as early as possible in the spring and continue hauling ore until late in the season. When it got cold, some of the wet ore would freeze in the cars and in the pockets. The 'ore punchers' had long pike poles and would dislodge the frozen ore and let it drop into the shoots. Some years ice-breakers had to come in and open the harbor and make a trail so ships could get down state.
Getting back to our family, I think I mentioned before that we had two draft horses for hauling sand. After Pa died, Maurice hauled some sand. The horses' names were Jerry and Morgan. Morgan developed, from some infection, a large club foot. It was necessary to dispose of him. In those days, sick or injured animals were taken out in the woods and shot. This happened to Morgan. Don't recall who did the shooting, but do recall how us younger kids cried and cried. The same happened when we had to dispose of our dog, Teddy. Later, Jerry was sold and we got a driving horse. Her name was Bird. Maurice used her on the mail route along with another horse, Nell. We had a buggy and a cutter as our transportation to town. We had two cows, Mollie and Bessie. Between us, we made sure the cows were milked and taken to pasture. On one occasion, we were taking, after dark, the cows to a small pasture up the road. There weren't many cars then, but the merchant who ran the hardware store happens along and struck one of the cows. She had to be taken to the nearby slaughter house and butchered. Of course, the family got the meat and the merchant paid mother $75 for the loss. AS time went on we got rid of the other cow and then bought milk each night from some of the neighbors at 10 cents a gallon. We had to go each night and get it, no home delivery for one gallon!
We always had a garden and raised our own potatoes, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, etc. We had no refrigeration, but we did have a dug-out under the house that was cool. We had a hole in the kitchen floor with a cover that let us down to get food, etc. However, we never put our milk down there. When we milked the cows, we would bring the milk in. Mother would strain it through a clean dish towel and pour it in large crocks, set it in the cupboard and let the cream rise. In the morning, she would skin the cream and save it until we had enough to make butter. We did have a large churn and a stand with a crank on it, so we could make our own butter.
Wash day was always a very busy, long day for Mother. With a large family and no washing machine, it was a chore. Our biggest problem was having enough water. We did have a well, which was 221 feet deep and a windmill. When we had wind all was well. Pa had fixed the pump with a pipe that could send the water to the trough for watering the cows and horses. When the trough was full, he could switch the pipe to run the water in to a cement cistern. In the house, we had a small hand pump where we could pump the water into the kitchen. Later on, the cistern got leaky and we either had to get water pumped by the windmill or pump it by hand. Pumping the water from a 221 foot well was no easy task. We had to put an extension on the pump handle and it would take two of us younger kids to pump water. Different times the pump was out of order, we had to haul water from the Gingles. We had a small wagon in the summer and a sled in winter. We would fill a five-gallon can. You can imagine how long 5 gallons laster with the large family. Sometimes we would catch rain water or melt snow for washing clothes. Those were the days!