The Estensen Family Reunion

As a youngster my grandparents Andrew and Minnie Olson attended the Estensen family reunion as often as there was one held in the community. I came across a newspaper clipping from a reunion that was at Lake Campbell near Brookings SD, decided to share this with my blogging friends. I’m sure there are many names for everyone to remember. I recall attending with my grandparents, even as a youngster it was a fun event. My wife and I attended our last Estenson reunion at Renner South Dakota in the early 1970s.

Our Estensen link.

Family reunion were annual events at one time, or as close to annual as you could get. Reunions seem to be out of style in many families today. My wife came from a large family in Michigan and she loved to return to the family reunions in July as often as we could. I realized those reunions were very important to her so we attended often, even though it was a long drive. This year she didn’t want to wait until July so she went to the reunion in April, not to Michigan but that Huge Glorious Reunion where the streets are paved with gold. There is an eternal reunion with friends and family waiting, that is truly out of this world.

Carol, Harlan, Sandy, Elma, Steve, Butch, Karen, Sarah, Luke.
Making ice cream with T-Model; Lee and Lyle.

Rev Don Bowers, Rose’s brother.

David Bowers and family

IMG_0050.JPG Marylin Wittkopf, Lydia & Bob Ruttman, Annebell Dolson at Harrison, Mi
IMG_0053.JPG Rosie Bowers, and her daughter Kari and family.
IMG_0061.JPG Marilyn and Shirley Bowers at Gaylord, Mi
Northfield, Mi
Reunion at Wixom, Mi 1970,s Rose with her uncle Norm at lake Brevort UP

Katie, Andrew, Julie, Brian, Carol, Harlan, Lori, Ryan and Jim Hopkins

Clair Jacobson, Carol, Harlan, Rose, Alice Mackey, Arlyce Jacobson at Poinsett cabin.

Thanksgiving Day



Thanksgiving Day

This picture was taken at my grandparent’s home on Thanksgiving Day 1937, a few years before eight of us cousins were even born.
I would like to share some of my recollections of Thanksgiving day at my grandparents home. Andrew and Minnie Olson lived in a very small farm house, near Lake Poinsett, South Dakota, USA. Grandma always had about two dozen people for Thanksgiving dinner. She would set up a long table in the dining living room area and another long table in the kitchen. I don’t know how she seated that many people but she figured out a way to do it.

One thing about grandmother Minnie she never sat down to eat with the family. She was always busy bringing food to the table and doing the serving. Everyone had a very memorable banquet at her Thanksgiving meals. They later moved to a different farm, the house there wasn’t a lot bigger but the Thanksgiving dinners continued them for many more years.

I recall at their old farm the snow being so deep we could slide from the edge of the house roof, down long snowbanks. There weren’t enough sleds for all the kids so we also slid on scoop shovels. It was a very fast, exciting, crooked ride on a big old scoop shovel.

Another memory of Thanksgiving day was after dinner and everyone was done with their pie and other desserts, names were drawn for giving Christmas presents. Christmas Eve was at our house. The tree with real candles was an unforgettable memory. This was in the days before electricity, real candles were used on the Christmas trees. Christmas day dinner was held at Edwin and Alice Wayrynen’s home. A large two story house, room for kids to run, there was a bunch of kids.

During the war years, many of the aunts and uncles were home on leave for different holidays. Families seem to have been much closer back in those days, lifestyles were different, everything moved at a slower pace. It sure was a peaceful loving relationship in most families. Or people faked it real good!
Happy Thanksgiving Day to everyone.

Harvest Time “Threshing”


Our quiet little farm took on a carnival atmosphere when threshing time arrived. From the time the steam engine pulled the old threshing machine into the yard, we knew everything was going to be different for a day or two.The crop determined how long the threshing would last. There was at least a half a dozen neighbors all working together, a few men from each family. They all shared labor, equipment, everything, during threshing season. This was a very special time, of neighbor helping neighbor, many hands make light work.

The threshing machine was usually set up fairly close to the barn, so when a person needed straw for cattle bedding he didn’t have to haul it very far. This made for a lot of very fast traffic going in and out of the yard. Horse-drawn hay racks were trying to keep the threshing machine busy at all times, so the whole process went smoothly, without having to shut down the threshing machine. The old threshing machines were run with a long, huge, heavy drive belt that ran off a tractors pulley. The operator did not want to shut it down unless it was dinner time or quitting time for the night. Starting up again took some time, this gave the bundle haulers plenty of incentive to keep those hay racks moving.

There were no traffic lights or stop signs going in and out of our yard, those fellows hauling bundles with horse-drawn hay racks seemed to think it was the Daytona 500. They no doubt got some type of premium for whoever hauled the most bundles. I do recall one hay rack coming into the yard so fast it tipped over going around the corner. That made a lot of extra work for the two fellows on that rack, they had to pitch all those bundles four times.

When it comes to threshing memories, most people remember having dinner as the main event of the day, there was always plenty of good food and matching appetites. The kitchen was so busy, we kids were treated like Little Jimmy Dickens, “Take a cold tater and wait.” My brother and I were outside one time during dinner hour. Harlan crawled up in somebody’s hay rack and managed to get the reins loosened up, those horses took off, a runaway, Harlan was bouncing around in the back of that hay rack like a ping-pong ball. He ended up with a few black and blue marks before somebody got the horses stopped.

There was always a very quick nap and short break right after the huge (noon lunch) dinner was finished. That was a time when everyone swapped lies about each other. My dad often recalled one of those break periods were a daredevil climbed the windmill and got out into the wooden, wind vanes. He stood in there, had someone start the old windmill, then rode around a few revolutions, I think it was done on a bet. There were many young fellows who followed the threshing circuit to earn extra money, some left surprise gifts that went unseen for nine months. The windmill rider maybe made himself a small fortune during harvest time, just riding inside of windmills.


The threshing machine was usually pulled up into the farmers yard the night before it was going to be moved and they did all the greasing and oiling and sharpened the twine cutting knives, until they were razor sharp. We had strict orders DO NOT play around the threshing machine, There’s an old saying, “Parents should have eyes on both sides of the head.” This was one of those cases. The bundles are fed into the threshing machine with a chain driven feeder. At the end of that feeder are some large razor-sharp knives for cutting the twine’s off the bundles, so they won’t tangle up in the machine

Harlan and I climbed up on the threshing machine that evening, doing our exploring as we usually did and we discovered a little sliding door. So of course we opened that door, I told Harlan , ‘I don’t think we better go down in there,’ “He had to try it”. He put his legs right down into those twine cutters. A huge cut instantly opened about 6 inch long, on the fleshy part of his left leg, right below the knee. There was blood squirting everywhere! I screamed loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Our dad came running, grabbed Harlan and got him in the car, mom must have had a tourniquet on his leg for the ten mile ride to the hospital.

Lake Poinsett Nostalgia

Photo Challenge

What kinds of experiences stir emotions for the past within you?

Lake Poinsett Nostalgia

The word that was suggested for the one-word prompt recently was nostalgia. It was a photo challenge, but the photos I’m using here are not current. The beautiful lake named Lake Poinsett in northeastern South Dakota is where I will take you on my nostalgia trip. I was born in 1940 and grew up witnessing many changes at the lake. With this post, I hope to take a short trip back down memory lane and recall different things about Lake Poinsett. It has seen dramatic changes in usage, population, residences, year around homes, food, drink, bait and tackle places and a multitude of water level changes.

We lived on a farm less than a mile south of the lake, our parents were Frank and Frances Olson. A lot of time was spent either fishing or swimming in our lives. Our great uncle Simon Hoel Olson built a stone house on the hill just east of the park in 1885, part of it still stands. My grandfather Andrew Hoel Olson helped him farm the land, the Olson name shows on the oldest maps for Lake Poinsett.


Simon Hoel Olson home 1880’s

Tall, virgin prairie grass grew for a mile along the south shore of the lake. Simon and my grandfather cut hay from it for forty years. There is a beautiful state park on that land today, trees and campgrounds everywhere. There is still some virgin Prairie sod where you can find a few wildflowers still growing today on ground that wasn’t plowed after the state turned it into a park. One of those Prairie areas is on a steep hill just south of the tent campground, the other is west of the turn around on the east side of the park, I think some is still virgin Prairie part way to the boat landing. The May flowers were plentiful in that area back in the early days they’re was also wild Tiger lilies.

A few tall original cottonwood trees were growing along the shoreline but through the centuries ice knocked most of them down. An old wagon trail can still be seen in places west from the turnaround almost to the boat landing, it went to the east boundary fence and on for another mile to the Hendrickson farm, what is now Runia’s farm. There were no homes or cabins on any of that land.

Just to the west of the State Park property, there was a very lively, noisy dance hall named Smith’s place. It flourished in the early 1900s. It was a very lively dance hall, where many big-name bands played as they travelled through this area. We knew Charlie Smith, the owner, and his family very well. Their daughter babysat the three Olson boys on occasion. Karlton, Harlan, and Leland.

It was during the time of the second World War. It would almost seem that those who did not go off to do battle overseas did their battling at Smith’s Dance hall. As a young boy I remember a lot of fighting going on at almost every dance.

My brother Harlan was a banker, writer, and collector of artifacts who helped start the Museum at the state park entrance. Harlan loved every minute of it, even the many volunteer hours. He passed away on March 8, 2016. I can see him searching for artifacts on old Heavenly terrain now. I imagine there are some nice artifacts to be found near those streets of gold.

Smith’s dance hall and the property was all sold to the Methodist Church, they may have become the first church to have a beer license. The original dance hall building where Lawrence Welk played still stands, in the same place on that stretch of shoreline. Today it is used for meetings and as a dining hall, which says something about old-time construction.

Arlington Beach, the next place west, was run by a lady named Ann Oburn. This picture is of the Lake Poinsett water slide in the 1920’s. it was located at Arlington Beach, as far as I can tell from looking at the Hills and the trees in the background. I will be glad to edit this story and change the location if it is wrong. Ann Oburn had a few rental cabins, a cafe and a bait house.

Bud Mueller from Estelline gave boat rides at Arlington Beach in the 1940’s. This was his fancy boat.

In the nineteen forties or early fifties it was purchased by Russ Weiland and his wife who operated it for many years. Russ was the original Evinrude Johnson dealer in this part of the country. His daughter and son-in-law relocated to Weiland Marine, which is now on Highway 81.

Lake Poinsett 1920's.jpg

West from there were only two or three homes until you got to the little hilltop farm with the goats. Madsen’s lived there. There were only two cabins between there and Mundt’s Resort. Mundt’s had several small cabins that they rented out. There was a farm between Mundt’s resort and what is now Pier 81.

There was another dance hall. It seems like one of the Norgaard  boys put the building up, it closed after the War. It later became Wieland Marine on Highway 81 just north of the corner by the Poinsett Cemetery. It was near a gas station, some called Hilltop, others Ann’s Place.  She served lunches and usually had a lively crowd, Ann and Clyde served beverages to those with the most discriminating tastes. The place later became Howard Lees, then Ole’s repair shop. It was Gene’s repair until Weiland Marine bought it.

Ernie Edwards moved a building to the lake and started Edwards’s resort, in the late 40s. Edwards served tasty food and later had a motel bar and live music.They had dances through the 60s and 70s, Country Western and Rock and Roll music. They usually had incredibly good crowds. It was sometime in the 1960’s a truck driver must have gone to sleep at the wheel, and he tipped his semi over in Edwards’s parking lot wrecking cars and almost taking out the gas pumps. I can imagine the call that driver had to make to his company trying to explain how he just wrecked a few dozen cars while tipping over at a crowded dance. I was there that night and recall there was a lot of commotion. It was a miracle that no one was hurt, many people were outside. Pier 81 was later owned by Floyd and Nellie Bronstad and Kenny and Helen


On the west side of the Lake, there was a resort called Sportsman’s Lodge owned by Nesson’s, the Hawley family was there too, it burned down. It was an exceptionally long large building with a restaurant, they also had cabins and rooms in the lodge that they rented out.

What is now Lakeview Resort was a small resort opened by Ole Mikelmier. It later became Fish Haven, the home of the famous Carp Sandwich. They had a secret BBQ sauce, it brought out the best in a sizable chunk of carp. From Lakeview North, there were two or three homes.

The Grape Farm had no homes until the first one was built right on the point in the 1950s. From there North to Saarinen’s the state purchased part of the shoreline and later sold Lots to private owners. That closed it for skinny dipping. From Saarinen’s Point North there were a few homes because it was close to the highway.

Niteberg’s Resort was just east of the Stonebridge. That highway washed out west of the bridge in the spring of 1969 as flood waters from over a hundred inches of snow came in from the river and Dry Lake.

Nittebergs must have had a couple dozen summer cabins that they rented out along with boats and bait. They also had some carnival rides in the summer months and afternoon roller skating in the dance hall. The dance hall was built over the lake at one time, but ice damage made them move it back to shore. It was a family run business. The brothers John and Clair ran the bar and maintained most jukeboxes, pinball and other game machines in a large area, their sisters operated the cafe.

The Dance Hall was busy and a lively location during the 50’s and 60’s and into the 70’s. There were all types of music, old time music was the most popular for many years, until Rock and Roll moved in. There were many big-name bands playing at Nittebergs Resort in the early years, the Model T and Model A days. Lawrence Welk who was from Strasburg N D played there in his younger days. Miron Florin from Rosholt South Dakota managed the Welk music when Lawrence stepped down.

Leo Fortin’s Orchestra was a regular at Nitteberg’s Stone Bridge Resort for many years.


Leo Fortin

They had Thursday night dances in the fifties. I recall our football coach Don Jorgenson at Castlewood kept telling us “You Guys are a good football team but just think how much better you would be if you didn’t spend all night at the dance on Thursday night.” He had a good point there.

We danced a lot to Big Tiny Little’s Band who played with The Lawrence Welk Orchestra. He was born in Worthington Minnesota and was a regular there in the 50s and 60s.


Dry Lake was north of Stone Bridge. In the dryer years, it was full of muskrat houses. The Game Warden Ed White with his Smokey the Bear Hat would fire a shotgun to open the trapping season. From what I have heard it was like the Boomer Sooner land rush in Oklahoma. Trappers made a mad dash to claim as many muskrat houses as they could.

The County had a bounty on pocket gophers at that time. It was rumored that some entrepreneurial muskrat Trappers took the front paws from their muskrats and turned them in to claim pocket gopher bounty in the spring. It would take a very thorough coroner’s autopsy to tell the difference between the feet.

When you went east from Nittebergs cabins, there were only one or two houses, the one right below the hill was named ‘The Mouse Turd Inn.” The west side of that hill was steep, just a dirt trail going straight up, many Model A’s some Model T’s, later newer cars had drivers who challenged each other to make it to the top. The dust really flew! Some got sideways on occasion and rolled back down the hill.

The resort on top of the hill was known as Jim Bagley’s place. A long wooden staircase went down the hill to the lake. They also had a café, fishing equipment, and bait. The name was changed to the Hilltop Resort later when owned by Louie Morales and his family. Louie rented boats at Thomas Lake one summer when perch fishing was hot.

Just down the hill, east of the hilltop resort, there were three or four homes before you got to Hammer’s pasture and to the outlet of Lake Poinsett, which led to Stark’s Bridge where flood gates were installed.

There have been several fish winter-kill years when oxygen in the lake got so low most of the fish died. Dead fish laid in windrows around the lake at one time. The worst spring brought out the National Guard with front-end loaders, trucks, and lots of shovels.

The Bakke farm and Cemetery took up most of the east shore. Two homes were on the hill overlooking Prestrude’s Landing. Lots were developed and cabins built to the south of the boat landing in the 1950’s. Goulds opened a beer and bait place there in the late forties, but it didn’t last. The Hansen family only recently developed the next mile of shoreline. Going south from the Hansen development to Hendricksons or now Runia’s there were two cabins.

This was a selfish nostalgic trip around Lake Poinsett. I’m far to young to have nostalgia for the water slide or for the swimming attire. So, I feel a lot younger by taking this trip back just a few years before my time. I thought I would like to share these memories of Lake Poinsett while I’m still able to share them. I’m almost at the end of life’s checkout lane. The changes at Lake Poinsett are hard to imagine if you didn’t witness them. The number of large homes today must reflect great prosperity in this country or ‘something’?

At night the lake and all of the countryside was darker than pitch, this was in 1945, before REA, no all-night yard lights, no electric lights period. We played cards with light from a kerosene lamp on the table. The nights were a whole lot darker, a small glow in the sky to the west was Lake Norden’s lights. The smaller glow to the east was Estelline near the Sioux River. You could barely make out a tiny glow for Brookings. You might say nights were a bonus for ghosts and goblins in those days. On a night with no moon or stars, you best hope your lantern did not go dry.  Can you imagine going back to living in those times?

NOVEMBER 15, 2016 / LELAND OLSON HOELbeach-bunnies

Swimming attire has gone from one extreme to the other throughout the centuries. In classical antiquity, swimming and bathing were done nude. The swimming suits here from the 1920’s seem a wee bit extreme, the weight of the wet swimsuit could pull you under. Now close to one hundred years later we saw, peered, peeked our way through the tiny weeny, polka dot bikini era, we are back to swimming in the nude again on some beaches.

What goes around comes around, with nostalgia or Murphy’s Law.

Happy New Year



Stroke of Midnight
Where were you last night at midnight? Would you have wanted to be somewhere else?

Last night while sitting in my easy chair I came to realize the year 2015 is rapidly running out of gas. This year is going to be a whole lotta gone, real soon. Here I sit, wondering what I should do first turn down the thermostat or see if the cat has food and water. I best not chance to make a poor decision, better think about this a while. I had a list of resolutions that got lost under my chair, should look for it in 2016.

My mind drifted or wandered back to one year I was on a picket line on New Year’s Eve. Our trucking company was in ‘mistake mode’, something called a strike was in progress. I was due to have someone take my place, so my wife came and picked me up and we went out dancing and welcoming in the new year. Now that I think about it, that was 40 some years ago. We had a lively night, partied on, danced almost every dance. Somebody spilled something on the floor and all of a sudden my wife slipped and did a new dance move. One she wasn’t planning on, landed badly and broke her wrist. The New Year had already been ushered in, so we decided it was time to head for home. After she broke her wrist. I realized I didn’t need a designated driver that night after all. I took her to our small town emergency room the next day. The doctor said, “I’ll be down there to look at her arm soon as the game is over.” He said, “You waited this long, wait a little longer until I get there.”

Meanwhile back in my chair, I arrived at the conclusion, to turn the thermostat down no use wasting electric heat all night long. Then I proceeded to fill the cat’s dish with food and water. I better take my pills too while I’m doing these last-minute chores. It was rapidly approaching that bewitching hour so I turned the lights down and went to our bedroom. My wife had already been sleeping for close to one hour. I bent over and kissed her happy new year on the forehead, she had her CPAP mask on. She replied,”hrpffy nnhy to ue to.” So as soon as the ball fell, I covered up by this tired old body and went to sleep. 2016 was welcomed into one more quiet and cautious household.

The daily prompt asks the question, “would you rather have been somewhere else?” Well isn’t that a nice loaded question? For a retired party animal! The answer surely comes to mind instantly. Almost anywhere else where there is a party. No not really, my wife and I plan, to stay happy healthy and wise in 2016, prosperous we realize is already out of the question. Chicken soup and TLC (tender loving care)  on the daily menu.