THREE PEDALS AND A LEVER
by Merlaine Samuelson

It was in the fall of 1947 that Lois Bergman from Grey Eagle and I came to teach first and second grades in Cokato. At that time almost every woman teacher was single. We each rented a room in town and got_ our three meals at the local restaurants. Lois and I especially liked the friendliness and the good cooking at the Broadway Cafe, owned by Einard and Emily Christopher, so we ate there almost all of the time. The meals prepared by Emily and the Dahlin sisters were real “home cooked meals." Einard even let us make our own banana splits.

Small class sizes were not a priority. You had as many children as were in a grade. That year l had thirty-six children following three weeks of spring kindergarten. The next year I had forty-two students. Then Mr. Folkerds decided I needed some help, so he hired Murell Blomberg, a recent high school graduate, to help the children who needed it when l continued to teach the reading groups. Those little first graders were real troopers and all did their very best.”

In the evenings Lois and l each had a Girl Scout troop of freshman and sophomore girls. My girls worked diligently on a three-act play to make money for the ten of us to go by Zephyr to Chicago for the week of Easter vacation. We did lots of sightseeing and when we went to the Ladies Be Seated radio program, Marlys Harkman won a jackpot that had been building for six weeks. The prizes were wonderful and kept coming to the Harkman home for several weeks.

This is all history now but in the spring of that school year we went farther back in history. Lois and I decided we should buy a car so we could get beyond the confines of-Cokato when the weather was so nice. With a salary of $280 per month we knew that the car could not be new or even recent, so we went to Harold and Rub Harkman for some suggestions. They told us of a bachelor living in town who was now too old to drive; he had a 1917 Model T Roadster that was in excellent shape. We went to meet Mr. Gust Flood and bought his car for fifty dollars. Gust had only ‘used it to go back and forth to Stockholm to care for and harvest ginseng (a medicinal plant which he marketed in New York) which he raised on his farm in Stockholm.

We could both drive cars of the 40s, but here we faced something that was operated by three pedals and a lever. Who could teach us to drive it? Harold Ryti, a young man in the Ford garage, knew all about Model T's so he was our good instructor and soon we were on the road. '

The three pedals each had a purpose: One was the brake, one was for going in reverse, and the one to the far left acted as low gear. You really pushed that one down when the roads were muddy or you were climbing a hill. The lever had to be moved ahead very slowly to get the car moving. Henry Ford was a very ingenious man.

We were very venturesome. Each week end we went to either Minneapolis or Grey Eagle without even thinking we might need a spare tire. One time, as we were speeding down Highway 12, Clifford Hedberg pulled up beside us and shouted “You’re doing thirty-five miles per hour!"

Of course with no battery we had to crank to get it started. With only one door we knew that the one who was not driving had to do the cranking. It was so embarrassing for me to get out to crank at the bank corner in Cokato or at the corner of Hwy. 100 and Lake Street in Minneapolis when Lois would kill the motor when she tried to start it up.

We packed many picnics and went out in our little car to eat along the river at Albrights. One Sunday evening Ann Ekstrand, the school secretary, joined us with sleeping bags and what we needed to fix breakfast after we slept under the stars. We l had to get up early to eat and spin back to Cokato in time for school in the morning.

One Sunday afternoon there was a big meeting at the Stockholm Church. Arlys Anderson, who was going with us, came wearing a pretty, but rather large hat.

We had not gone far before she realized that the hat would never stay on her head and we had to stop and put it in the little trunk. There were many spectators when we left Stockholm after the service. - 1

When Paul and I started dating and were married, our "Little Ophelia Bumpus" was not needed anymore so we put her to rest in the shed on our farm. There she res ted for forty-two years until we moved to Cokato. I’m sure the new owner can’t ever have as much fun as we had that year with three pedals and a lever.

This article first appeared in the Winter 1995 edition of In The Midst Of. (c)1995, Cokato Historical Society.