Virgil Knutson recalls country school

I encountered the following reminiscence from my Grandfather Ray Knutson’s brother Virgil Knutson. Ray spoke of Virgil often. Virgil was born in 1914 in Inwood Iowa, so this reminiscence may cover the years 1920-30.

I remember the little country school with its pot belly stove, cold floors and outside toilets which seemed a mile away. The student body was made up of Norweigans, a few Hollanders, and a few shanty Irish that ate pancakes with lard for lunches. I remember the little ball diamond with Merle Lewis (our Babe Ruth). I seems I was a self appointed one man committee to keep the teachers from being bored and to create excitement and diversion. I did a good job, so good at cutting off girl’s pigtails, dipping hair in inkwells, spit balls, shooting paper clips, and fighting and talking.

My Grandpa’s father dies during World War II

Given our almost hidden wars today, few of us can comprehend the complete transformation of America as it bent its entire will to the prosecution of World War II after Pearl Harbor. Factories switched almost overnight from the production of cars and sewing machines to the production of weapons. Many consumer goods were rationed including gasoline. It was in the year 1944 that my grandpa Adolph’s father died. The father of a friend of my mother’s owned an oil company in Yankton, South Dakota, and she related this story to my mother:

…You might be interested in knowing that when your grandfather died, it was during the war and your dad could not get gas stamps from the OPA [gas rationing] board to go out of town for the funeral. Adolph came down to dad’s [oil company] office and was in tears, and dad gave him the gas without stamps. He could have gotten in trouble, but dad understood as his father had disappeared and we have no idea where or when he died…