Children’s book author Sue Amundson will share her book, “Free to Be Me,” during the historical society’s birthday celebration with a story in the schoolhouse.
Children’s book author Sue Amundson will share her book, “Free to Be Me,” during the historical society’s birthday celebration with a story in the schoolhouse.
Check out the way we were, then party like it’s 1934!
It will be a great time with Debra, flying cars, nudists and the gangsters.
“There’s all sorts of crazy stuff that went on in Fillmore County,” related Debra Richardson, Fillmore County History (FCHC) Center’s executive director, speaking of the characters and developments of the county’s history, as chronicled in her book, “It Happened in 1934!”
She compiled the volume for the occasion of the Fillmore County Historical Society’s 80th birthday celebration, slated for Saturday, Aug. 23.
“It’s everything from nudists and rats as big as cats to Baby Face Nelson. There were even some gentlemen in Lanesboro who might have sued the city for the slivers they got while sitting on some bridge timbers at a ballgame,” Richardson said.
“It Happened in 1934” begins with a genealogy of the history center in a chapter entitled “Days of Yore” with a subchapter entitled “The Way We Were.” That section introduces the reader to the society’s “great-great grandparents,” the founders of the Old Folks Association who came together on Feb. 22, 1875, to organize what would, in 1878, become the Fillmore County Old Settlers’ Association of the Southern Tier of Counties in Minnesota.
These are the “great-grandparents” of FCHC, bringing up the “grandparents” as Richardson calls them, the Fillmore County Old Settlers Association, founded in 1893.
The Fillmore County Historical Society’s “parents” were The Old Settlers’, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association of Fillmore County, which convened for the first time in May of 1910 and ultimately held the meeting on Aug. 21, 1934, in Wykoff.
This was a grand outing for even the children, as Richardson is still searching for the name of a very eager little girl who attended the gathering and was photographed in what is, to the director’s knowledge, the only extant photograph of the Fillmore County Historical Society’s “birth-day.”
After the “Days of Yore” and “The Way We Were,” it definitely is time to “Party Like It’s 1934” in the chapter by the same name, as Richardson regales readers with the details of the Old Settlers’ organizational meeting in Wykoff.
The book then goes on to help readers “Read All About It,” sharing news about flying cars, machine gun-toting gangsters, rattlesnake con men, river rats as big as cats, and summer days so blazingly hot that corn popped right on the ear.
It all sounds like the newest Armageddon novel to top the New York Times Bestseller List, or could it be the next blockbuster action flick to hit the theater?
“Nah, it’s nothing like that ho-hum, ordinary stuff Hollywood makes up …daily news is history in real time,” Richardson said.
Richardson recounts how quiet little Fillmore County, of all places, had a man who started out the day fully dressed but somehow ended it without a stitch on.
She tells how a perfectly well-behaved young lady finds herself kidnapped and the hostage of some drunkards. A Pilot Mound Cemetery visitor’s car leaps across the ditch in which it was lodged.
The mobster story involves County Attorney D.A. McVeety and Sheriff Knute Inglebret who left on a Monday evening for Pennsylvania to get E.C. “Machinegun” Metterling, sought for complicity in the robbery of the First National Bank of Spring Valley.
An excerpt from the book says, “If anyone has any doubts about the torrid condition of the weather here in July and August, the low-down on it may be obtained from Hank Jeffries. While husking popcorn grown by him in the big garden plot at the H.C. Shattuck home in Lanesboro, he found several ears on which were popped kernels. The corn actually popped on the ear, and he has the ears to prove it.”
As for Richardson, she has the museum to prove that Fillmore County was and is no quiet little place – the history she’s delved into for “It Happened in 1934!” led her to want to party with all of the county’s friends and neighbors.
“We’re gearing up for a program of wonderful, old-fashioned fun – we’ll have a day of contests, prizes, a movie, popcorn, cake, we’ll have a ‘most compatible couple contest,’ music, special mystery guests, plenty of great things to do…we encourage people to come dressed in their best 1934 clothing,” Richardson added. “We’re marking all the 1930s artifacts with a gold star so that people can tour the museum and find them. Also, there’ll be activities for the kids, a program on the lawn, and people can get one of the 100 copies of the birthday book – a book has never been done before, so we’re documenting history so that people who are here in 2034 have a foundation to go on.”
The celebration begins in the morning as Richardson and the FCHC board invite parents and grandparents to drop their little ones off for story time and to take advantage of the opportunity to tour the museum. At 10 a.m., children’s author Susan Amundson will share her book, “Free to Be Me” in the schoolhouse on the museum grounds.
“We proudly host author Susan Amundson, who entertains her young audience with a book reading, puppets and an inspirational message,” Richardson said. “Susan spent her childhood years on an area farm with parents, Tracy and Gerda Redalen and sister Linda. Samoyeds were part of her life then and now. She’s turned her love of the breed into children’s books – and is the creator of handcrafted Samoyed toys. Khobi, an Eskimo boy, and Hero, a Samoyed dog, are the main characters in the Khobi Hero Series. Susan has published five titles.”
Take a seat in the museum community room and catch a Saturday morning matinee, the 1934 film “Lost in the Stratosphere.”
“We’re going to turn out the lights and travel on a biplane back in time. Based on a historical event, our feature film stars William Cagney (brother of James) and June Collyer,” Richardson teased. “In 1934, the U.S. contract air mail service was cancelled due to ‘irregularities’ and substituted by U.S. Army pilots for a six-month trial, which proved less than successful. Despite high flying drama, all ends happily-ever-after in this hour-long family friendly film. Better yet, there’s free popcorn!”
Richardson went on, “After the movie, if the weather’s good, people can enjoy their own picnics on the museum lawn. At 1, there’s a program in the canopy tent, with morsels of Fillmore County history, contests, surprise guests, prizes and a chance to see those who have come dressed for success in vintage style to spend their day back in 1934. We’re so excited, so please join us and bring the family. All events are free and donations are appreciated.”
The Fillmore County History Center is located at 202 County Road 8 in Fountain. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, call (507) 268-4449 or email
The 2014 Fillmore County Historical Society Board of Directors includes Duane Bakke, Ron Reisner, Norleen Cooke, membership secretary Bernis Finke, Ken Stager, treasurer Diane Dungy, Carole Gunderson, Sandy Cole, Roy Christopherson, June Hanson, executive director Debra Richardson, Vice President Herb Highum, President Richard Petsch, recording secretary Rhonda Steenblock and Barbara Davis.