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1943: Fritz continues story about the 'good old days'

Bits by Betty
Betty Mann, Rock County Historian

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
The following appeared in The Rock County Herald on Nov. 25, 1943.
Continued from last week. Frank Fritz recalls the “Good Old Days.”
“Then I went to Hills and became a Norwegian,” he related. “I opened a hardware store there and operated it until 1900. There were only two democrats in hills at that time, Ole Severtson and myself. I guess there were four populists and the rest were republicans. It wasn’t hard to find someone to argue politics within that town in those days.”
Was Postmaster
         At Hills he was appointed village postmaster, and he also installed the first telephone exchange in the town. He sold his business, however, after he had been in Hills for seven years, to Will Thompson. He then came to Luverne where he was employed by Nelson Brothers for the next seven years.
         In January 1907, he began operating the Sand-Lime brick factory, which was then a big business here. Twenty men were employed there, and much of the brick from which business buildings on Main street were built was manufactured at that time.
         The next year, he entered the employ of Greene and De Late, plumbing and heating firm, and later that same year, he went into partnership with them. From the partnership, he went into business for himself which is now occupied by the Millard Investment company. He continued until 1920 when he sold the business to Soutar, Maxwell and McKnight, which he bought back some years later. He was employed by Mr. McKnight at the time the high school building was constructed here, and he was in charge of the installation of the plumbing and heating equipment. In 1928, he re-entered business for himself, and he says he has been trying to get out of it ever since. The condition of his health is now the only thing that keeps him from being on the job.
Recalls Famous Blizzard
         His recollections of early day Luverne and Rock county are many. The first winter he was in Luverne, he experienced the blizzard of 1888, the worst snowstorm he has ever seen. He recalled that he was rooming at the Lincoln house at that time, and when he returned from lunch that noon, the weather was so warm that school boys were throwing snowballs. The storm struck here about 4:15 p.m. and for an hour he stood in the doorway of the Gerber hardware store and was unable to see the other side of the street. The snow appeared to come in huge rolls, and a person could hardly walk more than 20 feet before his eyes were practically frozen shut by the snow. He remembers well how A. M. Crosby lost 80 head of fattening cattle, and how Crosby’s hired man froze to death in the storm while driving the cattle back from Elk’s slough east of where he had taken them earlier in the afternoon for water.
Member of Fire Department
         At the present time, he is the only living charter member of the Luverne volunteer fire department. He was a member of the department for 28 years, and was on the hose team that won the championship race at Pipestone, defeating teams from Sioux Falls, Pipestone and Rock Rapids.
         The worst fire he has ever helped fight was the one in the Krook and Nelson store which was discovered about 10 p.m. on a night when the temperature was about 30 below zero. The firemen battled the blaze until 7 a.m. the following day, and when they finished, the nozzle looked many times its normal size because so many pairs of gloves were frozen to it. “We held on as long as we could stand it,” he recalls, “and then we’d pull our hands out of our gloves and put on a dry pair, because the ones we had been using were frozen solidly to the nozzle.”
         On another occasion he helped fight a blaze at a barn near where the armory is now located. The wind was so strong that burning shingles blown from its roof landed on Mr. Fritz’s home about six blocks away, causing it, too, to catch fire.
Lover of Outdoors
         Mr. Fritz has always been a great lover of outdoor sports, especially hunting and fishing. As a boy in Wisconsin, he remembers seeing ducks light on fields which had been newly seeded by hand in the spring, and eat virtually all the seed before it could be disked under. A number of times, he says, he stood in a field with a shotgun to frighten the birds away, by shooting at them. One day he and a companion bagged 87 Mallard ducks, as various flocks tried to settle on the fields.
         Prairie chickens and migratory waterfowl were extremely plentiful when he first came to Rock county. A person could go out and if he was an average shot, could bring back in an hour as many prairie chickens as he could carry. At that time they could be sold at $2.50 to $2.75 per dozen. Prairie pigeons, uncommon now, flew over in such great numbers that they darkened the sun, and the same was true of the golden plover. Then, all of a sudden, they became extinct, Mr. Fritz recalls. Ducks and geese at that time had a flight way up and down the Rock river, and hunting was exceptionally good both fall and spring. Pickerel abounded in the Rock river, and fishing was excellent. Despite the fact that he was always busy, he always managed to devote a little time to fishing and hunting.
Served on Council
         As a democrat, Mr. Fritz was interested in the trend of politics, but never had political aspirations for himself. He did, however, serve on the school board at Hills, and served one term as alderman on the Luverne city council.
         Looking back over the period of life that he has lived, Mr. Frtiz states: “I’ve seen travel change from ox team, to horses, to automobiles, to airplanes. I’ve seen tough times, and I’ve seen good times, and if I had my life to live over again, I’d go back right to where I started and come down the same way.
         “I got my lessons the hard way, and I believe it was a good way. Most of the people in the early days were ‘hard up’, but they were all honest. When a fellow told you he’d pay you a debt that he owed you as soon as he had the money, one could almost rest assured that he’d keep his word.”
         Mr. Fritz was married in Luverne on June 6, 1894, to Mary E. Enger, and they became the parents of two children, Ray Fritz, of Luverne and Mrs. Dorothy Russell, of Los Angeles. They also have two grandchildren.
         Of his own family of 17, he is one of 15 brothers and sisters still living.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

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