Some of the original creators gathered to see the new ‘Nora’ the steam engine. From left are Morris and Geneve Tweeten, Richard Storlie, Owen Hagen and Norval Britain.
Some of the original creators gathered to see the new ‘Nora’ the steam engine. From left are Morris and Geneve Tweeten, Richard Storlie, Owen Hagen and Norval Britain.
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In 1928, a pound of bread cost 10 cents, a half-gallon of milk was 28 cents, a pound of coffee was 45 cents, and a self-build five-room cottage could be purchased for $1,198 that included "full plans, lumber, roofing shingles, doors, windows, hard wood flooring, moldings plus the varnish and paint to complete your house," according to www.thepeoplehistory.com.

It was also the year when the 4-H Club then known as "Newhouse Can't Be Beat" was organized under the supervision of Leonard Tollefsrud with 18 youth members.

"They had tours, picnics and plays, much as they do at the present. They also had Club Orchestra, which traveled to La Crosse to present a program over WKBH. That program consisted also of songs sung by groups as well as individuals, a dialogue, a recitation and a two-act play," states the club's history book.

They became the Newhouse Norsemen in 1934 when they merged with the Pleasant Valley 4-H Club. The club continued to grow, and later in the 1930s, the membership grew to around 70, and the club decided to split. One branch remained known as the Newhouse Norsemen and the new second branch became the Wilmington Gophers, which is also still in existence.

The Newhouse Norsemen have continued to thrive throughout the last 85 years. The members have always met at the Spring Grove Township Hall.

Houston County 4-H clubs have a traveling trophy for the top club in the county. In 1968, it was decided by the other clubs that the Newhouse Norsemen should just keep the trophy since they had won it so many times!

They have had many special projects throughout the years with two of their longest running Community Pride Projects being Adopt-A-Highway (since 1991) and Meals-On-Wheels (since 1993).

In 1983, four dads from the club - Norval Britain, Owen Hagen, Alan Patterson and Richard Storlie - built a miniature steam engine named Nora. She has been used on parade floats throughout the years, but had been neglected for some time. The current Newhouse Norsemen Club decided that it would be a good project to restore her.

"We had hoped that it would be a project that many members could work on, but because it was such a cold spring we were having a difficult time getting it done and we wanted to have it completed for the Syttende Mai parade," explained current club adult leader, Heidi Waldenberger.

"It was frozen into the ground, so even moving it to begin working on it was a challenge."

The Waldenberger family worked on the restoration. They pressure washed it to get all the pine tree sap off and sanded it where necessary to make it smooth so that it could be painted.

The seat area had been made of wood and was rotten so it needed to be replaced. The old governor was replaced as well as the old lettering.

The mini steam engine's repurposed parts look new again! When it was originally built, the men would go out scouting for various parts to create Nora. Club members also brought parts in to create her. Her large wheels are from a grain binder, her small wheels are from the wheels of a silo filler with rubber from an old silo belt.

Her other parts include: a water heater, a sleeve for a John Deere tractor engine, a tractor pulley, half of a fuel barrel, corn planter lids, a stove pipe, a seat from an old tractor, and an old steering wheel.

This year, she will make her first appearance at the Houston County Fair. Look for her there as a special Club planter.

The club will also have a booth celebrating their 85 years. There will be memorabilia from the last 85 years of the club's existence including a history binder listing all of the known Newhouse Norsemen alumni.

Past members are encouraged to stop by and check for their name on the list, if someone was inadvertently missed, they can let the club know so that the records can be updated.

Alumni can also look for a special place to write favorite memories of their time as a Newhouse Norsemen 4-H Club member.

Currently, the club has 15 families with 36 youth members. Two of these families have third generations currently active in the club - Kyle and Carrie Hagen (parents Don and Virginia Hagen) and Isaak, Gabe, Aiden and Lydia Solum (parents Aaron and Lynn Solum).

The Newhouse Norsemen meet the second Monday of every month at the Spring Grove Township Hall. To learn how to become a member, contact the Extension office at (507) 725-5807.

Houston County Fair

Stop by during the Houston County Fair this week and check out the many exhibits that are produced by all of the hardworking 4-H kids. From cattle to cooking, science to photography and lots more, the youth from ages 8-18 have displayed much talent and knowledge.

Club members also take turns manning the 4-H food stand, where food is sold as a fundraiser for all participating clubs.

And of course, don't forget to have your picture taken with "Nora"!