Parnell Marvin Swinson, who went by the name Pete, was born on a farm 15 miles southwest of Presho, SD on December 3rd, 1916. His parents were Peter M. and Mary Christensen Swinson. He was the only son and youngest child of Peter and Mary. He was admittedly spoiled by his 2 older half brothers and four older sisters. Pete didn’t grow up on the homesteads of both of his parents as they moved to Presho before he was 2 years old. They bought a small tract of land in the northeast part of Presho along the Medicine Creek and started a dairy farm so he still had a farm lifestyle with all of the advantages of a small town.
Pete started school when he was five and only tolerated it. His sisters said they had a hard time keeping him warmly dressed in cold weather. He was as apt to start out without a coat or jacket as not. They gave him some credit for bringing home what he wore to school which was in contrast to his good friend Joe Mullen whose trail could be traced by the clothes he left behind. Pete and Joe were good friends and the two of them spent many hours together fishing and swimming.
Pete had a bad habit in those early years of being oblivious to the passage of time. One warm summer afternoon, he had gone fishing and the sky began to darken with the makings of a severe storm but Pete didn’t notice it until things began to happen…high wind, rain, and marble-sized hail. He started for home but didn’t reach it until it was almost over. He was drenched to the skin and covered with big welts where the hailstones had pelted him. He was surprised his family had been concerned about him, but he didn’t recall that this experience helped him to head for home earlier when the weather looked bad or when it began to get dark.
During the summer Pete’s mother often worked outside. Consequently, when he was small his older sisters did the housework and also took over the job of policing him. On several occasions when he disliked what he considered bossiness, he threatened to run away. Thelma, one of his sisters, was fed up with his threats and one day when he made known his intentions, she packed his clothes into a big suitcase, handed it to him, and told him goodbye. There he stood…a small boy of seven or eight with an oversized suitcase in his hand and he didn’t know where to go with it.
**When I was reading this part of Pete’s notes about his childhood, I had to laugh. I remember my dad (Bill) telling me about a time when he was probably 7 or 8 and his baby brother, Chuck, was bothering his mother. She made the comment that she would sell that baby for a nickel. Little Billy went to his room, got into his piggy bank, pulled out a nickel, and brought it to his mother. He said he wanted to buy baby Chuck. His mother did what Pete’s sister did. She packed up all of little Chuck’s things and took them to little Billy’s room. She took his nickel, and said baby Chuck was all his. Then she left to continue with her housework. It wasn’t very long at all until Billy came with Chuck’s things and Chuck himself. He asked his mother if he could please have his nickel back. It must have been a typical child-rearing method used back in those days to teach children to be careful what they wished for.
As Pete grew up, as was said, he wasn’t crazy about school. He would rather have been hunting, fishing, swimming, skiing, or tinkering with cars than sit in school. He got hold of a Model T chassis and by searching junk yards and abandoned cars, put together a whole car. He said it wasn’t too much to look at, but it ran. He spent many hours of his time rebuilding the car, but he felt it gave him some really valuable experience
On the dairy farm they had very contented cows after he piped-in music to the barns. The music helped him, too, but he promised himself that when he grew up, he would never milk a cow again and he kept that promise.
After his dad broke his ankle and really wasn’t able to do much, Pete took over the milk route. He had very fond memories of those days. He got to know other families, and their dogs and cats. He also learned some of the family secrets when he walked into their houses unannounced to put milk into their ice boxes. He always liked music. I guess that’s probably why he piped music into the cow barn. One time he made a bargain with his sister, Pearle. He said he would teach her to drive a car if she would teach him to play the piano. One session in the car and one at the piano was as far as they got. She never did learn to drive a car and he never mastered the piano.
In high school, Pete played some basketball and 4 years of football. At one football game he was injured but was soon back in the game. He finished the game, looked around a bit, and then went home and chopped a pile of wood. That was really hearsay for it was about that time he came to. He couldn’t remember anything that happened after the injury. One member of his family insulted him by saying she knew something was wrong when he chopped the wood without being told.
Peter graduated from high school in 1935…
**It must be quite an experience to be the youngest of 7 children with 4 older sisters.
I know my friend, Sherri, adored her dad, as did her two sisters. I know Sherri has a fondness for fishing. Times have changed, though. Unlike Pearle, Sherri can also drive.
We’ll get to the later years of Pete Swinson’s life, but I will close this portion by saying that from everything I have heard and read about him, Mr. Swinson was quite a remarkable man…