As 2019 Pine City High School graduates (See 2019 scholarship winners on Page 6) take their next steps in life, they would do well to learn from the examples of the past. Dorothy Baldwin, Pine City High School Class of 1935, has many memories of her home, her school and of the era.
“The graduation was held at the armory that was near Cross Lake,” Baldwin said. “It seems like the high school didn’t have a big enough auditorium or for some reason it had to be at the armory. We had a lot of functions there, like dances, so it was natural to host graduation.”
Baldwin said that during the Great Depression they simply learned to get along with less.
“We were forced to make due with what we had and didn’t expect anything more,” she said. “Growing up on a farm, we didn’t have an extravagant life to begin with. I remember we used Montgomery Ward or Sears catalogs to flip through for anything special. On the farm, we had eggs, milk, a garden and we did our own butchering, so we were able to get along fine. Some of the city kids probably didn’t have everything.
“Nothing seemed different in school during the Great Depression,” she said. “We still had school plays, plenty of books, etc. and carried on like normal high school. I didn’t have money for college but also knew I was going to get married, so it wasn’t too important. Instead of college, I did housework for a meager wage of $5 a week.”
Her parents’ farm was located by Pokegama Lake, by the old town hall on the way to Mora. It was too far for her to walk to school, so for quite a while she rode with a neighbor boy, Eerol Miller, in his car.
“He lived one farm over,” Baldwin said. “One day the car wouldn’t start a mile out from school. We walked four miles home that day.”
After a while, she lived with her grandmother in Pine City for a few years and was able to walk to school easily.
“Later, I roomed with girlfriends in a house,” she said. “We all shared a room. Our parents paid the rent for the room, and each girls parents coordinated to bring meals for us weekly. It all came from farms. We always had plenty to eat.”
Her favorite class was English, but she said she also really enjoyed typing class, which included shorthand.
“There wasn’t a lot of after school activities,” she said. “School plays took up our extra time, we had to go to rehearsal daily. Some kids had seasonal sports, football, basketball, etc. We had frequent school dances and school plays or parties. Once, the kids from the cast from our play all came to my farm. My mother hosted supper and had made homemade ice cream. We didn’t have electric then, so she cranked it all by hand.”
She encouraged young people to consider that a simpler life might actually be a better life.
“My advice to the Pine City High School graduating class is to learn to take what you get, and be happy with that,” she said. “Kids are living in a very different world than I grew up in. Kids today have it easy, things are just handed to them. I think it’s important they learn to live within their means and not to set their sights too high unless they are willing to put in the work.
“Back in my day, you had to work hard, save money and wait for the funds before you could buy things. And then when you did, you were happy with what you had. You weren’t already chomping at the bit for the next purchase. I recommend the kids do what they are talented to do and the rest will fall into place.
“Life, my family and my church are what inspire me now. I mostly enjoy time with my friends and family and look forward to their visits. I do what I can do. I’d jump over the moon if I could.”
Thank you to Dorothy for sharing her memories, and also to Angela Baker and Candice Ames for their help in telling Dorothy’s story.