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Pine Island Historical Recollections

by Wes Moreland

Born in 1933 at West Concord to Wm. “Ray” and Lavina “Irene” Moreland.  When only two months old Wes and the family moved to Pine Island riding in a horse and buggy with a Holstein milk cow tied on behind.  Ray started a cream, egg, and poultry business across Main Street from City Hall and remained in that location for thirty-five years.   After retiring Ray became City Clerk for ten years.

History as I remember was almost entirely on Main Street.  Barber shops run by families named Bunn, Ryan, Fieck and McKeighan seemed to have moved the most.  The popular places for me were the Rainbow and Ray Stoddard’s popcorn stand.  Saturday night was a busy time for local businessmen and farmers.  Summertime Sat-urdays were full of sounds of band concerts and horns honking by farm ladies sitting in parked cars watching their friends pick up groceries at Jake Closner’s store.

Summertime in Pine Island was full of days at the various swimming holes, a few days at the Cheese Festival and one very special Cheese Festival day when Vic Holtorf flew over from Mazeppa and gave me rides in a yellow Piper Cub for two bucks a ride.  I rode and rode.

One Cheese Festival day I was watching the parade on south main when the biggest black stallion I’d ever seen pranced by.  What a handful for Bob Noser – no problem really!  But that horse was impressive. 

Outside of the city limits boyhood life was “different”.  Usually six days a week in summer were spent in swimming holes where we survived on gooseberries and green apples while smoking various sizes of grape vines.  We watched many freight trains pass over the pennies we’d placed on the rails.  We also hung on the outside of the trestle to prove our bravery before leaping into the Zumbro.  In our day only sissies wore swim suits but our gang was loyal to the core.

Next to the smells of the popcorn stand Wes visited the harness shop regularly.  It was owned by Pete Mueller (prior to Baringers) where smells of leather and glue filled the air.  Pete was an equine harness, bridle and saddle maker.  He later moved to California to make saddles for western movie stars.  Pete’s daughter was married to Ken Abbey who was a trucker, cattleman, and salesman of wholesale dry goods and farm ware.  “I just sold the last one” was Ken’s famous line urging people to come back.

The Jasperson Blacksmith Shop on the corner was almost my whole world.  I saw more breeds of horses and mules shod by Chris Jasperson and he could also fix anything whether it be a spoke for a buggy wheel or a plowshare.  A small and wiry man but he still could swing a big hammer all day long. “Jap” was his nickname. Chris learned his trade while shoeing mules for the U. S. Army in World War I.  He also owned, trained and raced horses at local fairs.

In the late 1940’s when Ray’s produce business was slow, he subcontracted to haul mail to and from the post office and train station.  Wes filled in when Ray was busy and was required by law to carry on his hip a loaded 45-caliber revolver.  Trainmasters Roy Reynolds and Jim Finnegan of the Chicago North Western Railway and Great Western Railroad never blinked an eye when Wes strode into the depot to siddle up to the hot pot belly stove in winter.  So my reputation as the “Backstreet Gunslinger” went without notice for 57 years.  Oh well!

At age 15 I could drive so I needed a job paying better.  I worked at Gustine Bros. Construction running a cement mixer all day for 35 cents an hour.  On payday, Saturday night, I received about $13 and it went zoom.  Gas for my little motor scooter was 18 cent a gallon.  Wow, we were “livin in high cotton” (easy pickin) and didn’t know it.  After leaving high  school I joined the Navy to see the world and I did.  My secondary education came from two community colleges, one private college and four universities.  I finished a teaching career in Florida.  

“Once upon a time” while visiting Pine Island I found again my old high school sweetheart, Carol A. and after a while we got married and have continued to travel world wide, happy as a “pig in a puddle”  - ol’ south cliché.

After 60 years of flying in private, military and commercial aircraft I am now building my own experimental ultra-light wooden aircraft.  My technical advisor is Jewell Ness of Wanamingo, the same man who owned the “Cub” in the 1940’s – small world.  

Editor’s Note:  The Moreland building which was located on main street across from City Hall was razed in 2004 and the lot is now a city parking lot.

Wes and his wife, Carol Ackerman Allen Moreland, live in Pine Island.  Besides traveling, both keep very active in the community volunteering for the American Legion, Pine Island Lions, St. Paul Lutheran Church to name a few.

“Thank  you Wes” for sharing your interesting story

(The year mentioned at the beginning of  Wes Moreland’s article.)
  • First-Class Stamp: 3 cents
  • Eggs: 15 cents/dozen
  • Sliced Bacon: 19 cents/pound
  • Man’s Overalls: $1.50
  • Aladdin Mantle Lamp: $2.25
(taken from Reminisce Magazine May-June 2006)

(Printed in the Pine Island Area Historical Society Newsletter July 2006)