My visit to Duluth was incredibly successful! I’ve come away with many more sources than I had before, including a detailed look into Louise’s yearbook! Oh yes, she has four names now. Lowie, Louie, Louise, and Lois. You can’t say she wasn’t creative.
Of the many things I found while visiting with my grandma (Louie’s daughter) in Duluth, one of the most moving stories was that of Louie’s mother, Sadie. Living on a farm in North Dakota, Sadie kept the family together and fought to maintain the farm while her husband, Bert, traveled (goodness knows for what specific purpose). Grandma had two letters from her to him, imploring him to do this or that or else the consequences, she warned, would be dire. The writing was all in pencil – so much for my extensive research into ballpoint pens – and difficult to read, though, so I’m going to spend some more time transcribing the letters. The tragedy is that in 1918, Sadie fell victim to the Spanish flu, like so many other Americans. She died with four children depending on her. Bert attended her funeral, but then he ran off. No one seems to know what became of him.
At 16, Louie was essentially orphaned. Sadie’s brothers and sisters each took on one of her children. Louie went to live with her aunt Emma Brewster and her family. They ended up (still looking in on this) in the Duluth area, where Louie and her cousin Edna (also sometimes known by her middle name, Deliliah) went to school together at Superior High School.
Louie’s quote in the yearbook read, “I came a stranger and they took me in.” When I heard the story of her mother’s death and her father’s abandonment, I understood that it was tragic. But finding this quote in her yearbook really brought it home for me how devastating this must have been for Louie. This, in combination with Sadie’s letters, really helped me empathize, making the story more emotional and significant for me.
Meanwhile, my fiance and I decided to make Valentine’s day our next 1920’s date. We got gussied up and went to the historical Height’s Theater in Columbia Heights to see the silent film, “Sunrise.” This film, made in 1927 and directed by F.W. Murnau, is absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. Here’s the IMDB synopsis: “A married farmer falls under the spell of a slatternly woman from the city, who tries to convince him to drown his wife.” But that’s only the first five minutes. The film won some of the first ever Oscars at the first Academy Awards in 1929 and is a beloved favorite for many silent film buffs. Also, the whole thing was filmed in a studio – even the scenes on the boat and on the trolley and in the circus. But I didn’t know that until I eavesdropped on the people sitting behind us.
The Heights Theater was a wonderful venue to see this movie because they have an organ built into the theater and hired a live organist to play the music. In the middle of the pig chase scene, the bellows cut out and we had to watch it truly silent for a minute while we waited for the organ to get wind again. Here’s a delightful clip of the organist’s opening:
I’m planning to whip up a batch of GG Loney’s peanut butter cookies for next week. I’ve even got her original, handwritten recipe!