It’s been 80 years, and three ladies still share a friendship that has stood the test of time

Marlene Kouba, Leota Neigum and Lucy Miller in a recent photo. (Photo Courtesy of Marlene Kouba)
Marlene Kouba, Leota Neigum and Lucy Miller in a recent photo. (Photo Courtesy of Marlene Kouba)

Back in the early 1930s, members of the Everyday Homemakers Club gathered in their homes to learn various methods of cooking, sewing and homemaking. Three of those members were young women who were newly married and lived on farms north of Mott. The three women were Mrs. Wendall Coffing (Cora), Mrs. Wendall Waddell (Zola) and Mrs. Fred Weinberger (Mabel). Other members included Mrs. Frank Mayer (Bertha), Mrs. Joe LaVasseur (Catherine), Mrs. Martin Messer (Lorene), Mrs. Will Bushart, and Mrs. Frank Weinberger (Marie).

During the winter of early 1936, Cora, Zola and Mabel were pregnant with their first child and all were due in July. Members of the Homemakers Club decided to make a quilt for the woman who had the first baby. Lucy Coffing was born on July 5, so Cora won the quilt. Leota Waddell was born on July 18 and Marlene Weinberger was born on July 29.

Throughout the years, the three girls have remained friends. They attended country grade schools near their homes and then Lincoln High School in Mott. Later Lucy married Pat Miller of Mott and became a stay-at-home mom, Leota became a nurse and married Frank Neigum of Bismarck, Marlene became an elementary teacher and married Richard Kouba of Regent. Throughout the years, they have kept in contact with each other. Each one had their own 80th birthday party this year but Leota and Marlene surprised Lucy by showing up together for her party on July 16 in Fargo. The three are now widows and the long-time friendship still flourishes.

Times were tough during those years with crops drying up and no rain in sight. The lowest temperature in North Dakota history was -47 degrees in February 1936. Except for the first two days of July that were in the upper 90s, every day was over 100 degrees including the highest in North Dakota history of 114 degrees on July 6.

In those early years houses had little insulation and were heated by coal or firewood, there was no air conditioning or even fans, no indoor plumbing or running water as a well in the yard had to be hand pumped to get fresh water, no refrigerators or freezers, coal stoves that were used all year long to cook or heat the rooms, no phones of any kind, metal washboards in galvanized tubs and long wires on posts for clothes lines for the laundry, no bathtubs or showers, no medical insurance or government assistance, rutted roads and cars or trucks with insufficient heaters, heavy wool coats for warmth but not wind protection, cotton clothes that had to be ironed with a heavy “sad” iron heated on the coal stove, no fire trucks or ambulances and a doctor was 10 to 15 miles away for illnesses and to deliver babies in their homes. Most farm women sewed their own clothes and home furnishings, made their own bread and canned their home-grown vegetables. Each farm had at least one cow for milk, cream and butter.

Prices in 1936 included: a loaf of bread—8 cents, 3 cans of tomato soup—20 cents, a gallon of milk—48 cents, pound of butter-40 cents, gallon of gas—10 cents, new Ford auto–$780.00 and annual income was $1,713.00. Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected as president with John Nance Garner as vice-president. The price of wheat was $1.02 a bushel with a high yield of 20 bushels per acre. Coal was dug by hand from area strip mines and sold by the inch.

Families survived the hardships and the children grew up to be active in their communities. All worked hard but life was simpler with much less worries and ‘business” than we have today. Good old days? Yes and no.




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