The upset and dread these days concerning COVID-19 cannot be denied. Joe and I wish all readers and their families good health in the coming days and weeks.
With the topsy-turvy changes to everyday life happening around us now in 2020 caused by illness, I got to thinking about how people in the past coped with such things. It wasn’t easy for them, that I knew. I have walked through the North Hibbing cemetery and observed the many, many gravestones with “1918” engraved as the date of death. Sometimes, the birth AND death dates are both “1918.” The flu epidemic that year was vicious. One can only imagine the grief that ran through so many Hibbing homes in those days.
Sometimes it helps to know that people before us were brave and resilient, even in very difficult times… people who lived right here in Hibbing.
The following is taken from an essay written by Harriet Bunker for the Hibbing Historical Society. She worked at the Tribune for many years. Her essay was published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune a couple of times, including on August 6, 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial Special Edition.
Memories Since 1909 by Harriet Bunker
I was married September 9, 1909. And came to Hibbing three days later. I thought I would only be here two or three years and have now been here 64. I retired from the Tribune in June ’72.
When I first came to Hibbing there were 64 saloons and the town was a mile long and five blocks wide, so I have seen Hibbing change and grow. All of the mines had locations, among them Mahoning, which was the show place and visitors were usually taken out there.
There was an epidemic here in 1910. A traveling man at the Hibbing Hotel was the first one taken sick and I was the second. Doctors didn’t know what it was, but finally after 12 babies died in one square block, McKinley and Garfield, they decided it was the water. They were moving houses on North Street, the last street in Hibbing, beyond Finn Location as ore was under it. Workmen were tearing down outside toilets and slushing around in it with high rubber boots and this was all draining into our drinking water.
I don’t drink coffee or tea, just water, so I was very ill. The doctor didn’t think I would live, so they sent for my mother. I couldn’t even lift my little finger. All I could keep down was champagne. After two bottles of that I asked if I couldn’t have something else, so my husband John bought imported ginger ale by the case.
This was in May of 1910. I ate only malted milk and cottage cheese for three months. It took me all that winter to get back to normal.
Speaking of illness, the terrible flu hit us very hard in 1918 and 1919. The Washington School was turned into a hospital and as nurses were scarce and overworked, teachers were drafted as nurses. Several of them caught the flu and died.
Many pregnant women were victims also. Dr. Weirick was quite concerned when he found out I was six months pregnant, but between the doctor and Mrs. Crandell, they got me well again. Poor Mrs. Crandell, a practical nurse, was about dead on her feet. Dr. Weirick had promised not to call her for a few days, but he did. He told her that she had to go at once to the Bunker’s house as we were all sick in bed. Joan was not quite a year old. He also told her to put one of John’s nightshirts on me, as all I had left were seven veils. Thanks to the doctor and Mrs. Crandell, they pulled us all through.
(Doctor Dana C. Rood was Hibbing’s first doctor, coming to town in1893. Doctor H.R. Weirick joined Dr. Rood in 1898. The two were highly respected. Hibbing’s first hospital, built by the Oliver Mining Company, was located in North Hibbing at the corner of Center Street and First Avenue. It was named the Rood Hospital.)
When Carol was born in April at home, Mrs. Mosley was to take care of me, but Dr. Weirick said I didn’t need such a good nurse and he needed her for other patients more than I needed her. The flu was still very bad.
(Hattie Mosley was an excellent nurse. She was African-American. Many accounts of life in Hibbing in these years refer to her outstanding dedication to her patients.)
Over that summer and into September, John built a house in what was then Alice. We lived in it for 56 years. Later, Alice was called South Hibbing and then just Hibbing. People said that we were crazy to build way out there – the town would never grow that way.
Our house was built on Hibbing Avenue, now 2nd Avenue West, and John had workmen with horses digging out the dirt to put in a fireplace as he knew I wanted one. But, with everyone telling him that the town of Alice would never amount to anything, he called off the diggers and I never did get my fireplace.
There was a spring called See-L-See Spring with very good water five miles from Hibbing. A man took it over and bottled the water, selling it for 25 cents a gallon. Otherwise, Hibbing water had to be boiled until the new water system was installed.
Many people who lived in Hibbing in those years were from Europe. When one of these foreigners died, the family would often hire the city band and most of those attending the funeral marched to the cemetery behind the band playing the funeral march. But on the way back they would play other songs, including every time,“There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.”
In those early days we could sit on our front porch and watch the little dinkys fall down the dumps. The dinkys were very small railroad engines which pulled the overburden to the dumps. The dinkys would often go over the edge. Many times the engineer would be killed.
We liked to go by where the new high school was being built and see the progress there.
Where Greenhaven is now we used to pick wild raspberries, chokecherries, and pin cherries. Then, the Oliver used it for a pasture.
The mayor of Alice was Andy Nelson who built a large house on 1st Avenue and 29th Street. (This “large house” is still there today. It has a concrete retaining wall around the yard.) Andy had a 40 acre farm and when people came to visit us in a horse and buggy they would tie it up to Andy’s fence. The 40 acres was eventually divided into lots.
The Alice School was very soon much too small, so four more rooms were added. Many buildings were being built on Howard Street after 1919 and one of those was the Merchants and Miners Bank. Since it wasn’t finished, partitions were put up ¾ of the way inside and several grades were held there until the Alice School addition was finished.
Howard Street itself had to be filled in once all the pipes were laid deep in the ground. In the meantime, there was just a plank across to the school. The teacher wrote me a note asking me to put Chandler, who was in the 4th grade, in overalls as the older boys were in the habit of pushing the younger boys off the plank into the mud.
Do kids really change from one era to another? Would the same thing happen today? Of course it would! Also, the phrase “to build way out there” is still used today to describe places like where Joe & I live in the River Creek subdivision!
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The following items are taken from the Hibbing Daily Tribune or the Mesabi Ore, which are on microfilm at the Hibbing Public Library and/or Iron Range Resource Center at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.
June 6, 1919
Weather permitting, there will be an outdoor Victory Sing at Missabe Park tomorrow evening at 7:30. The big chorus of high school students will lead the singing and will be accompanied by Di Marco’s orchestra. The young people have been especially trained and it is a privilege and an inspiration to hear them sing. Patriotic and old-time songs will be sung. A feature will be the national songs of the Allies. Copies of all the songs to be sung will be distributed to the audience so that everyone will be able to take part.
October 23, 1923
Hibbing police are warning residents that automobile thieves are coming back to life again, stealing articles from cars. Parked in front of residences and store buildings, the cars are entered by thieves on the lookout for anything of value. Thieves stole a mackinaw belonging to Ralph Nelson from his car on Saturday.
June 1, 1953
Scandinavian Fraternity meets Tuesday, 8:00 p.m., at the Odd Fellows Hall.
July 21, 1969
Goldfine’s of Chisholm is proud to sell a 3-room furniture set consisting of a 2-piece living room set in nylon cover and choice of colors, 4-piece bedroom set, and a 5-piece bronzetone dinette set all for $328. Free lay-by until wanted.