It’s been a few weeks since I started writing the Rythm of Life series. I began with three men who were born in the late 1800’s and went on to the generation that followed them which included the years of WWII. I mentioned before that I am going to interview Gus, who’s family immigrated from Sweden. We’re going to begin that process on Thursday. I know most of the story, but he tells it better…
In the meantime, I will to continue with the stories of the Swinson, Francis, McNinch, and Sanderson families.
I was born on the last day of 1951, shortly before the big South Dakota blizzard that took place in late January of 1952. My brother, Billy, was seven years old and we lived in Murdo, SD.
Sherri Swinson Miller was born on February 7, 1954. Sherri has a twin sister, Shelli. Their older sister, Sandy, was born 10/10/1950. The Swinson family lived in Presho, SD.
It was common knowledge that Dad was hoping for a boy somewhere in this mix, as I was told in later life that I was supposed to be a Michael. That aside, Dad never gave the impression that he minded having all girls, as he was a loving, caring, giving dad as long as I can remember him.
The 1050’s were the boomer years. The economy boomed, and everywhere individuals were feeling the need for family and security after all those hard years of war. In the 1950s there was a marriage boom, birth rate boom, and housing boom.
During the 1950s, games, including checkers, marbles and chess as well as card games, such as go fish or old maid, kept kids entertained. In addition, hot new games such as Scrabble had just been introduced in the late 1940s, and by 1952, its makers were selling 400 sets a day. I still enjoy playing a rousing game of scrabble.
After the war, Pete Swinson returned to Presho, SD and established Swinson’s Plumbing and Heating. On January 14, 1947, he married Artis O’Toole. On their 4th wedding anniversary, they had an open house in their first new home.
My father, Bill Francis, came home from the war and established Francis Plumbing and Heating in Murdo, SD. We moved into our new home when I was 18 months old, so it must have been around June of 1952. Since I discovered that our fathers both owned plumbing and heating businesses, I have wondered if my dad and Sherri’s dad knew each other. It is very probable they did since they operated similar businesses in towns only 34 miles from each other.
In 1955, Pete Swinson built the first new building to be built on Main Street in Presho in over 30 years. The building was rented out and housed a grocery store, a post office, a TV appliance sales and service store, and a Gambles Store that the Swinson’s owned and hired a manager to run.
Pete also took up flying. One day he and two other guys decided to go after a coyote. They hit an air pocket and made junk out of the plane. After that, they wisely decided to take up golf. Not only was it safer, but their wives enjoyed it, too.
The following includes more of Sherri Miller’s thoughts about her father…
I have very fond memories of my early childhood with my family. To Dad, school was very important and he and mom made sure that we went to school and did the work throughout. My sisters were very good students, and I was average. That didn’t matter, as long as we were putting in the effort. He was also a big supporter and fan of extracurricular activities. The biggest Presho Wolf fan ever. Since back then they didn’t have girls’ sports, he made sure we participated in the stands. He and mom took us to all the away games and then to Hutch’s when we got back for burgers and fries to either celebrate our victory or drown our sorrows.
I remember one night going to a tournament in Murdo and on the way, I believe it was in Draper, he got picked up by the Highway Patrol for speeding. EVERYONE going to the game saw him pulled over alongside the road by the trooper.
When he finally got to the game, he got a standing ovation by the Presho crowd! He was also very active in the community and school, fundraising, Presho gym, Lions Club, later on getting the Medicine Creek Golf Course built. I remember him helping kids in the community with money for further education, etc. Didn’t want any recognition for it, just wanted to help in some way. He and my mom also enjoyed playing cards. They were a member of a 2 table (8 person) bridge club. They played every Saturday night. Took turns going to the member’s homes. They must have played for pretty high stakes, as after they accumulated a substantial pot, they were off for a little vacation. I know they went to Vegas, Mexico, and who knows where else with their funds. They had some really good stories to tell about these trips too! One couple in the group eventually ended up moving to Murdo. That didn’t stop them. They continued to play and Fritz and Darlene Jost just drove to Presho and the others to Murdo when it was their turn to host. What wonderful friends this group became.
**Here is a side note for you from Mary…When the Josts moved to Murdo, their daughter Josephine and I became good friends. We graduated high school together and had an awesome adventure in California after graduation. (Link to story is at the end of this blog.)
Murdo High School senior pictures…1970
As I said earlier, Dad was a big sports fan, and in his early years loved to hunt, fish, play ball, etc. He tried his hardest to give his girls the same opportunities. I still remember him baiting our hooks, untangling our fishing poles, taking the fish off the hook, letting us ride on the hood of the car while we scouted for rabbits, etc., just encouraging us to enjoy and love the great outdoors. I have no doubt that for him, many of these little outings were far more work for him then they were fun though. He did, however, as well as the rest of our family, enjoy our times spent at our cabin that he built out at Fate Dam. It was a one room cabin containing two beds and a kitchen and eating area, no bathroom! We all so loved going to that place. Mom and my sisters and I sometimes spent weekdays out at Fate and Dad would join us on the weekend. A weekend of swimming, boating, and socializing. It is definitely one of my fondest memories. Maybe this had to do with vacations that happened before the cabin.
Every year we loaded the car up and went out to the Black Hills, did a lot of driving around, as well as visiting some of the tourist’s traps. After years of doing this, we were definitely ready for a change!
My dad was one of the hardest working persons I have ever known. Mom did most of the disciplinary, child raising and home duties, but all the time he was teaching us one of life’s most important lessons —the value of hard work. To me it seems like dad worked 24-7. If he wasn’t building homes or businesses, he was doing furnace calls or taking care of plumbing issues, etc. It got to be in our house that we all just hated it when the phone rang, because it usually meant that Dad had to leave and go help someone.
The Swinson and Francis family stories to be continued in part 2