It wasn’t the same as returning to a childhood, but a visit to the Fourth of July celebration in Slater certainly stirred some memories from years past.
For sure, times have changed – what used to be a pretty good sized midway with all sorts of rides and games for all ages has lessened in size over the years.
The biggest change, though, for those of us who “grew up” with the annual celebration of our nation’s birthday is the single location of the annual event. Until just a few years ago, the Fourth of July was observed one year in Sheldahl and the next in Slater. Many years ago, Slater was founded when the railroad went through. Most of Sheldahl – including many of the houses there – simply moved the short distance to Slater. Decades later, it seems, that move is nearly complete. Sheldahl has become too small to hold the annual Fourth of July celebration. There simply aren’t enough volunteers to be found.
My wife, Judy, and I made the trip to Slater during the afternoon, missing the morning parade and skipping the huge crowds that always flock to the area in the morning. Still, there was plenty to do, plenty to see, and lots of great food to.
A highlight was a visit to the Slater Historical Society booth on the grounds. Judy was particularly pleased since her family once called Slater home – her dad, King, was born in Slater in 1910 and her great aunt, Sarah Heggen was the wife of pioneer Slater banker, Miller Heggen. Her grandfather, Herman Auestad, was an early barber in Slater.
Judy and I both spent a considerable amount of time at the booth – something I doubt we could have done among much larger earlier crowds.
Slater or Sheldahl was a great place for young folks to meet during summer vacation from school. When we were young, all our friends were there. Games abounded and, naturally, all the boys tried to impress the girls with their prowess at tossing rings over Coke bottles, knocking over dolls or breaking records with baseballs.
It didn’t matter that, in those days, most of the games were “rigged” in favor of the carnival workers. We still tried, and that was all that mattered.
While most of those games are gone now, and many of the rides are no longer in the midway, the Fourth of July celebration is still a highlight of the summer months.
I found a highlight, too. Walking in the park, I spied a white-haired man holding a baby. He looked quite familiar, so I walked closer to get a better look. I didn’t even get there before he turned and said, “Bill Haglund. How are you?”
It was an old boyhood chum from Alleman, Mel Vetter. Mel was there with his family, which now includes three great-grandchildren. Mel and I played a lot of baseball and basketball in our younger days and we had lots to talk about, perhaps to the boredom of our spouses.
Growing up in Alleman, there were only four of us in the same class – three of us boys. It was natural, then, that we would all be friends. We played a lot of ball in the summer and we all dreamed of one day being Big League baseball players. None of us made it.
Visiting with Mel last Friday, though, I did realize one thing.
The older we get, the bigger, faster, more powerful we were. And, there aren’t too many people around to argue that point with us.