I was raised by my Grandma, Charlotte Bracklin-Gordon, in what is now
North Reserve, a few blocks from St Francis Mission on old E, now Taylor Road.
Her house sat back about 40 yards, in a field, from the road. Now 50 years later,
I’m retired and living down the road from where I was raised.
I left Reserve upon the death of my Grandma; I was 12 years old and in 7th Grade.
Catholic Charities of Chicago placed me in Angel Guardian Catholic Orphanage;
think Catholic Boarding School. I remained in Angel Guardian until the end of my
junior year of High School; for the record, I am a run-away. I returned “home”
and graduated from Winter High School, Winter, WI in 1964.
Grandma was a slight woman, already in years when I arrived. She had waist-long
white hair, held-up with bone combs. Her long fingers and nails were amazing; yes,
she was strong! On the extremely rare occasions when I was naughty, I was ordered
to go out into the trees for a swith for my backside, Huh? Every evening she sat in her
rocking chair and combed her hair out. Oh yes, she enjoyed her Summer-Time tobacco
in her corncob pipe, rocking in her chair and looking out at the road. My Grandma wasn’t big on talk but she was a rock, in her quiet manner; she protected me from fears. She used her lips to show directions and emotions. She could barely sign her Social Security check; I never saw her fill-out a form and write a letter. I remember her few print dresses with her heavy peach hose and garters. She slept in a sleeping cap. Whenever she went to Church, town or visiting, she always wore a long blue coat, no matter the weather with her blue flower hat or a scarf.
Grandma’s drafty tar-paper frame house had two rooms with windows on three sides. The inside walls were covered with floral wall-paper held-up with a floor and water paste. The floor was covered with vinyl and nailed down; buckling in more places than not. In one room was the bedroom with a double bed and a high single bed and a number of steamer trunks. It had two windows; one facing the road and the other George James house, to the north. The other room was both kitchen and living room with only a kitchen table, 4 table chairs, a cast-iron kitchen stove/oven, a breakfront for dishes and groceries, wash basin stand, a pot-belly stove for and Grandma’s rocking chair. Our outer door entered into Grandma’s kitchen. One window faced St Francis Mission and other the road. Grandma used butcher knives to secure the door at night. Her little house had a tiny earthen hole, through the bedroom floor, for potatoes. She had no ice-box, no power or running water. The out-house was around back. The pump was 40 yards down an incline behind her house. The bells of St Francis Church were our time-piece, Grandma had a wind-up clock that occasionally worked or was needed.
Grandma wasn’t a baker; but we had apple butter, can milk, canned beef or pork, coffee, corn flakes, corn meal, crackers, eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter, boiled potatoes, pan bread, powdered milk, salt, salt pork, slab bacon, Koral white syrup and Log Cabin maple syrup and sugar. Towards the end of the month, we would split an egg for breakfast. Occasionally an uncle would drop off fish or venison. Brown soap was used for bathing, washing clothes and dishes and sometime as medicine against poison-ivy. Funny, Grandma never tried to cook it!
One year Grandma allowed us to adopt a pair of dogs, King and Queen who proceeded to have a litter. Little food and less space, they froze outside.
Reserve was black in the evenings. Moonlight and starlight gave me extra time to stay out. Breath-taking Northern Lights would frighten me. Sometimes fire-flies appeared like ghosts. Loons couldn’t pronounce my name. What’s not to love about happy crickets?
Sunny days brought berry picking, bubble bees, caterpillars, chipmunks, dragon-flies, owls, rabbits, squirrels, sun flowers, wild flowers and wood-peckers. I often wondered where they slept and if they had parents. There were occasional sightings of a bear roaming the swamp behind Grandma; I had nothing to fear as Grandma had her butcher knives. Behind the brush and trees were foes to slay. I was Tarzan of the jack-pines and swayed in the poplars; I was fearless! It took brown soap, kerosene and scrubbing to clean-up. There were movies at the south end of Agency Road; sheets for a screen, folding chairs and fried burnt popcorn. There were baseball games in either south Reserve or above Sister’s. It was fun to visit Fay Ann White’s bear; but he wasn’t big on conversation. In Little Couderay were sun fish; along the shores, frogs laughed at me and turtles posed and thought. I swam in baggy underwear!
When my Grandma received her monthly pension check, the next clear day we walked the 14 miles into Hayward to trade and visit. It was a long dusty endless walk on winding sloping Highway E. It was a beautiful walk, with many targets for my trusty slingshot. I threw stones at chipmunks and skipped rocks. Grandma always rested by a spot beside Spring Lake; years later, I was told it was the spot were her teenage youngest daughter Christine had drowned. With her groceries stacked inside Rivkins, we went up the street to the Namekagon Bar. Grandma would nurse a “shortie” while the bartender called around for car for hire to get us home.
My days were filled at St Francis Catholic Mission Church and Sister School. There were always things to do and see; the church, the cemetery, classrooms, Sister’s garden, the hills behind the Catholic Church, mischief, playground or a chance for a meal or handout. Tourists would ask me to pose with their children; yikes, a real Indian! I was adorable! Sometimes they gave me a quarter. Too funny! My stories of St Francis begin and end with the influences of Sister Nathan and Sirilla. St Francis Church gave me Baptism, First Communion, my Confirmation and Altar Boy instruction. I enjoyed school particularly for the access to books. I lost myself in books. We spent time making bead-work to be sold in the School Souvenir Shop. By all means, we had a band; someone years before had donated dozens of harmonicas. Recess was spent on the gravel playground, with a couple swings. During the Winter months, we slid down the steep hills behind the church on cardboard or on foot or played on the ice. St Francis provided the only complete meal of my day. I worked in the Sisters garden for penance or reward; with a lunch thrown-in. I earned cake by maintaining the LaRush Family cemetery plots. From the school basement, Sister Sirilla provided the few clothes I required; I remember Grandma having to buy me only high-ankle shoes. Looking back, I never knew pajamas! It hard to point to one lesson learned at St Francis School; but unconsciously I have felt her strengths on-and-off throughout my life. St Francis’s Cemetery is home to my Mom, Grandma and Great-Grandma. When my time comes to pass-on, I will rest next to my Grandma; the most important influence of my life.
When I wasn’t running over to St Francis, I had chores. Seasonal berries were a treat. In late Summer, I was sent out picking beans in Exland or Radisson; with fried egg and peanut butter-jelly sandwiches and Kool-Aid in a canning jar for lunch. How proud I was to bring home $ 5.00. In the Fall, Grandma got a load of slab-wood from Walters Brother. There was always wood to be split, stacked and brought-in, I fed the pot-belly stove. Water had to be hauled-up; regardless of the weather. Grandma would melt snow in a pail on the pot-belly stove and I would hurry down to prime the pump. When priming didn’t work, we melted snow on the stove, for cooking and drinking. I was marginal hunter with my red rubber sling-shot. There were pine trees that dare me to climb-up. Evenings were spent reading the Bible stories, the Fables, lives of the Saints and stories of the Knights of the Round Table, with sweet tea and crackers by lantern.
Common family names; Corbine, Dennis, Gokey, Gouge’, Guibord, Isham, Martin, Miller, Morgan, Taylor and Wade; and a few were playmates. Little did I realize my Gouge’s uncles were part of our nation’s “greatest generation!” I believe the Gouge’ brother’s military service influenced my own career in the Army. I had no nick-name unless Rudy counts, from Rudolph!
Tom Miller lived at the north end of our old road, now Taylor Road; he had a monster black and white TV and we were invited-in to watch the Mickey Mouse Club with him. Steve Taylor’s store, at the south end of our old road, had bread, eggs, kerosene, lunch meat and a phone.
A couple days a summer we would walk the Thoroughfare, to Whitefish, to visit Great-Grandma Mary Bracklin and Aunt Nellie Bracklin. They would talk Indian; we had a lunch and then I was sent out to play. These visits were never explained. It was only many years later that I realized the significance of these relationships. My loss! The only relatives I knew were in Dog Town; Aunt Mildred Martin and Uncle Raymond & Dorothy Gordon and lots of First Cousins. My Grandma remains the most significant person of my life.
If I had a hard life; prove it to me!
50 years later; I am “at home in old Reserve!”
Rudolph (Rudy) G. Tudjen, LCO Box 1618, Hayward, WI 54843
Cell: 715-699-0761 and e-mail: email@example.com, 14 December 2009
My Memories of “old Reserve”, years 1952-1958