Murdo Girl…The rhythm of life..The Murdo Depot

I’m going to tell a little bit more of the Francis side of my family’s story. Not only is it interesting, but it tells you a little bit more about my dad’s youth. I intend to write about one of Peter Swinson’s sons, Parnell, and about Jack Francis’ son, William or Bill. I’m also going to write about my 2nd father, Gus’ family. His father came over from Sweden in 1893 when he was only 19 years old.

Connie and Bill Bowers

After Jack Francis died in 1926, Connie continued to run the the stores. In 1928, she married William Bowers who was 17 years her senior. He was the Murdo agent for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroad. Connie and her boys moved in with Mr. Bowers who lived with his three children in rooms above the depot. The ages of the children were 2, 8, 12, 15, 17, and 20. The only girl was Margarete Bowers who was 15.

The marriage by all accounts was a very successful and devoted union. Connie’s boys called their step-father, Dad Bowers. The couple were never heard arguing (loudly anyway) and all got along well considering they lived in very cramped quarters. I remember Dad saying that his mother would dust the house and then a train would go through and there would be coal dust to deal with, again.

Connie kept the Murdo Hardware store until after the war. She then sold it to Nick Thune. Nick had moved his family from Mitchell, SD to manage the store in 1930. He was a Norwegian immigrant. He and his wife, Maude became very close friends of the Francis family.

When Nick assumed ownership, the store’s name was changed to Thune Hardware. It was later operated for several years by Nick’s sons, Harold and Gilbert. Harold earned Most Valuable Player honors on the University of Minnesota basketball team and was a decorated Navy pilot in the Pacific during WWII. He went to high school with my dad and he was my Algebra teacher.

Harold Thune recalled that Grandma Connie provided young Bill, with a 12 guage shotgun for hunting when all the rest of the gang could only afford BB guns. He also remembered that Bill went on to become almost fabled for his marksmanship.

The depression of the thirties hit Murdo, SD like it did everywhere else. People had very little money for the essentials. They would steal coal from the railroad coal cars parked on rail sidings near the station to refuel the engines. The farmers faced, drought, grasshoppers, and low grain prices.

A man who worked for the railroad as a brakeman got his right arm caught in a coupling between two railroad cars. They had to amputate his arm which of course put an end to his ability to earn a living on the railroad. He probably got a small pittance, but it wouldn’t have been enough to support his rather large family. He soon decided to start a grocery store in their home. Many farmers brought eggs, butter, cream, and other products in exchange for groceries. The store operated for many years. I recall going there when I was a small child. If I remember correctly, it was in the middle of a neighborhood a few blocks over from Main Street.

As in other towns hit with the depression, there are examples of people taking care of each other. When a child’s family couldn’t afford to buy glasses for their son, the school superintendent purchased them. The boy eventually went to the School of Mines in Rapid City, and became an executive with General Electric.

After Dad Bowers died in 1943, Connie moved to California. She was excited about keeping house for her son, Chuck, and his to friends who were enrolled at UCLA. It was 1947.

She said she wanted to go back to Murdo for a visit and she wanted to have a physician examine her before going. The doctor discovered she had breast cancer. The cancer spread to her lungs and she died on April 1, 1948. She was 59 years old.

The threads of family continue to weave through my life. Though I never met my Grandma Connie, I feel like I know her. I have heard my father talk about her, and he often sang the songs she taught him. He talked about her great wit and sense of humor. He and his friend, Dan Parish, once told her she had to make an angel food cake for a school function. She later discovered she had made an angel food cake for a couple of devils.

Connie was dearly loved by all six of the Francis/Bowers kids who lived together above the Murdo train station.

I’m very proud to be her granddaughter…