Local graduate sets novel against Comfrey tornado
I, Edna Curry, nee Kleinow, grew up on a farm SW of Comfrey (Albert and Elise Kleinow) and attended Comfrey school all twelve years, graduating as Salutatorian in 1953. I attended that class’ 60th reunion on July 13 at the new community center, and enjoyed seeing former classmates and friends and sharing memories.
I live with my husband, Orval, in Taylors Falls, MN. We’re retired from working many years in the retail grocery business, first in the SuperValu chain and then buying our own store in 1977. After retiring in ’94, our hobbies became our jobs. He’s still a locksmith. I write novels, the current count at eighteen novels besides short stories and articles. I’ve written contemporary romance, historical romance, mystery and romantic suspense novels.
One of my novels, Best Friends, is set against a tornado in Conley, a fictitious town loosely based on my memories of Comfrey and its tornado. The people and events are fiction, but, as in all fiction, bits and pieces of the characters are based on real life people I’ve known.
Another historical novel, Never Love a Logger, has the background of the greatest logjam in the world, the 1886 jam at Taylors Falls, MN. I also wrote an article about that in 1986 for its 100th anniversary, published in American Forests Magazine in Wash., DC., and still available on Amazon.com, as are my novels.
Comfrey memories? There are so many, it’s hard to choose.
I’ve been a bookworm all my life. In grade school, I fought with the school librarian who insisted on limiting me to borrowing one book at a time. With a long, lonely weekend stretching ahead, staying with my aunt, one book was not nearly enough. In those days, there was no TV. “Why?” I asked, waving a hand at the whole room full of books. “Rules are rules.” I compensated by borrowing the longest book I could find so it would last until the next library day. Grimm’s Fairy Tales was a favorite and I read it many times. Now I collect books and just realized maybe that’s why I have thousands, so many that Orval says we live in a library. “I shall never be hungry again!” (for something new to read!) I love my Kindle so I can download another book whenever I want, day or night. I use airline rewards to buy more books, and even give the books I edit for a couple of online publishers their ‘first read through’ on my Kindle.
Other favorite memories of Comfrey are growing up on the farm, riding bike on gravelled country roads (now stinky with huge hog farms), hand-milking cows, driving tractor and baling hay into square bales and building forts with them in the haymow with my brothers, climbing the wind charger tower. (Yes, I was a tomboy.) When I was little, the wind charger sent electricity to huge batteries stored in our basement to power our home before REA brought electricity to our area. That brought a milking machine and water pump with cups to each cow’s stall. And a real bathroom to our home.
My mother was a Junker and from a family of ten and my dad from a family of six. Sundays were ‘company days,’ when aunts and uncles visited back and forth and we spent many happy hours with cousins playing ball in summer or cards or monopoly in winter. Or we went sledding at the big hill behind Grampa Kleinow’s farm (across the road from ours), sliding down to a pasture next to the creek. Or went wading or fishing in the creek.
A scary memory from grade school: our school bus had just passed over the bridge on that creek next to Bert Evers’ farm. It collapsed under the next vehicle (pick-up?) over it. I hate crossing bridges to this day. When they rebuilt that bridge, they re-routed the creek to take out the big curve and straighten the road.
More favorite memories of Comfrey were of the school and Salem Lutheran Church. After church each Sunday, we’d stop for gas at the little station just west of the church, then go to the drugstore for a gallon of ice cream to take home for our weekly treat. (Grocery stores weren’t open on Sundays.) Thursdays, we’d walk from the school to the church for our confirmation classes.
We rode the fan bus to various other towns to watch football games. We had a girls’ basketball team and were allowed to demonstrate to the people during half-time of the boys’ game, that girls could play, too! And I scandalously wore shorts, and got scolded for showing my bare legs in public! I remember lots of my teachers. I had Miss Reid in first grade and loved her. I remember the swings and slides and our favorites, the ‘giants.’ The giants was a tall pole with about ten chains with a bar for a kid to grip. We ran around the pole fast until we were all airborne and sailed around the pole several times before it slowed down and we had to run again to make it go fast again. I haven’t seen one in many years. They are probably considered too dangerous now.
I loved working on the school paper, the Spotlight. My first real job was working in the school kitchen with LaVonne Junker and Georgiana Schlack among others, cleaning up after lunch for several years. I remember health class where the teacher used me to show how she could shut off the blood supply in my upper arm. And everyone standing up to stare at me on the floor after I fainted. Scared her more than me!
We decorated the lunch room with lots of crepe paper streamers for our prom. Sophomores were the waitresses, only juniors and seniors could attend. We all wore pretty, lacy dresses and attended and had fun, dates or not. The school cooks made the meal of creamed chicken in little patty shells with jello salads and peas. Odd what sticks in my mind.
Graduation night was bittersweet. I loved giving a speech and can still remember stepping to the podium and my mouth going dry and my heart pounding at the scary sight of the huge auditorium full of people looking up at me! And crying when I said goodbye to many teachers and people, knowing it was the last time I’d ever see most of them. And it was. I went to Minneapolis to work at Honeywell that week and never returned except for short visits.
When I was small, in the early forties, a movie cost ten cents until they added two cents’ tax to help the WWII war effort. On Saturday nights, Daddy would take us six kids to town to see a movie, usually a western. Daddy loved those, and also subscribed to Ranch Romances magazine, that I would sneak up to my room to read, starting off my love of romance novels. We’d buy ten cent magazines without covers and nickel candy bars and gum at the drug store.
I remember driving to a fair in the summer. Once, a small carnival came to town and set up east of Wagner’s Grocery. We thought it was a big deal to ride the Merry-Go-Round, Tilt-A- Whirl, play the games, win a teddy bear, and buy corn dogs, popcorn and cotton candy. Or.
As a teen, I’d go roller skating in the old town hall. Colored lights and music livened up the old wooden structure. We’d skate in circles, alternating between “date skates” for couples and “all skates” when everyone skated by themselves. When we got home, our hair was so full of dust stirred up by skates rolling over the old wooden floors that we’d always have to wash it.
That old town hall held lots of other memories: we used the stage at the north end for class plays before the “new school” was built (1949-50?) and also had baccalaureate services there. Band and music concerts were also held there.
I met Orval at that rink, when my friend and classmate, Patti Curry, his cousin, (now in Denver) introduced us. Orval and Harry Pankratz had come over from Butterfield to rollerskate. Patti and I double dated with those two for almost two years before Orval was drafted into the army. (Patti also married Harry.) Orval and I married after his basic training. The Korean war was on, but luckily Orval got Germany and returned safely. We had three children and now have five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Keep up with me on my website at www.ednacurry.com, on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/7Edna or twitter: @ednafern
The above article was published in the Comfrey Times, 2013.