Those 70ish girls…Those six Sandersons

By Valerie Leckey Halla, daughter of Ella Sanderson Leckey and husband, Al Leckey

We all love our small hometown…my Mom’s family were all brought up in Murdo, SD. I was partly raised in Pennsylvania but visited our small hometown most summers and loved moving back for 7-8 th grades. Then, boom, my parents moved us to California and I was devastated as a 13 year old to leave, thinking I could never go home to the place I loved and all my aunts, uncles and cousins again. But you can go home again…

I was chatting with my cousin Mark one time on the phone. We were looking back at good times, good people and good stories we had known and experienced. We talked about how my dear Mom was pretty frugal. When I was about 9 years old, she bought a new throw rug for the house. She kept it hidden away in the coat closet and didn’t use it except when some special South Dakota friends were visiting. It was considered an extravagance.

My Mom, Mark’s Aunt Ella and his Dad, my Uncle Jeff, had grown up with six kids in their family in a small log cabin. It was in a beautiful place about 8 miles east of Murdo called Horse Creek. It was a tough life growing up in the early 1900’s and 1920’s on the prairie and money was only used for necessities.

The young Sanderson family, minus Elna who was not born yet. Jeff is faced with his left side facing the camera. He had a black eye from a fall I believe
L: A family friend, sisters Loretta, Ella, and Helen, holding baby Elna

Mark and I kept telling stories. Fast Forward to the 1950’s- my Mom would put this throw rug out only on special occasions. It was not a necessity but it made us look like we could afford to buy a small fluffy foo foo rug. After the visit with old friends was over and dishes were cleared, we stood at the entry saying goodbye to our old friends. Standing there and as a kid I got bored, so I reached down and pulled up the new throw rug and put it back in the coat closet. The friends looked shocked. I had literally pulled the rug out from under them. Like my Mom, I knew the rug was just for special occasions. When company left, the rug was whisked away. My folks told that story for years after and Mark and I chuckled at that old story once again. He even knew where it fit in our wonderful family past. It clicked with him.

Grandma Sanderson, Jeff Sanderson, Grandpa Sanderson, Wayne Sanderson, Ella, Helen, Loretta and Elna

“Yeah, your Mom was really frugal and did some strange things. And our Aunt Elna fit in with our family of characters also. She would go into Mack’s Cafe whistling a tune and just barely step inside looking around. If no one of interest was there, she turned around and left!”

We both chuckled together on the phone still discussing our crazy yet lovable aunts and uncles. I offered another story a friend had told me recently since I lived in California and missed out on a lot of Murdo stories.
I got excited and yelled out, “Oh – and Mark, Cynthia told me about how during tourist season Aunt Elna drove Aunt Loretta uptown to check out the motel situation! It’s so funny. Aunt Loretta filled up her Chalet Motel then parked at Aunt Elna’s house so people didn’t recognize her car and then Loretta rode in Aunt Elna’s car with her. She would see which motels still showed vacancy signs!” I told him the route Cynthia said they took down the highway, up the hill, down Main Street, and they would do the route circling around a few times all this at about 5-10 mph, seeing all the Murdo motels in town and on the two highways several times. He knew all this anyway. “ So Aunt Loretta smoked her cigarettes and they went back and forth at about a snail’s pace, really stretching the ride out, lording it over on the businesses that weren’t filled with tourists chatting away until Aunt Elna drove Aunt Loretta back to the house to pick up her own car!” He laughed. (Ironically, years after this story occurred, Aunt Elna’s son – our cousin – now owns a big impressive motel in town and Mark has a lovely country inn also.)

Our conversation continued. Mark told another good one about his Dad promising to give him his treasured jeep when he, Mark, turned 24, but no, he didn’t. Uncle Jeff didn’t give it to him. There are many jeep stories, but suffice it to say many years later, friends took the old jeep out by the cemetery when Uncle Jeff passed away and the jeep watched as Jeff was buried there. The jeep now lives in the Murdo Auto Museum. If that old vehicle could talk…what a lot of stories it holds.

Valerie and the Jeep at The Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo
Ella Sanderson Leckey and Grandma Sanderson in CA during the war years. Grandma was hoping to see her son, Jeff before he shipped out.
Valerie and mom, Ella
Valerie and Aunt Elna Sanderson Miller at The 1880s Town near Murdo
Helen Sanderson Haverberg, daughters Sue Ann and Trice, Valerie Leckey and Ella Sanderson Leckey
Elna Sanderson Miller and Irma Bork Sanderson visiting Horse Creek after Sister Loretta Gustafson passed away
Valerie Halla holding Caitlin, Irma Sanderson with Valerie’s son, Morgan, Ken Halla, Jeff Sanderson behind Matthew Halla, Mark Sanderson

Mark and I ended our hours long conversation by joking and bragging that we certainly weren’t as silly and weird like our parents and aunts and uncles! No, we were different, more educated, more modern, and young! We both paused and thinking it over, knew we had also done some weird things, but we felt the joy going back in time, recalling how we laughed at the good times, good people and funny stories. How lucky that we were able to go back home even if just in our memories.

There are more stories about Uncle Wayne and Aunt Helen and our grandparents and cousins, but that’s for another day when we’re back home. Thank Heaven, we can go back again. Back home.

(Yram: I apologize that the pictures aren’t in the correct order. I am working from my Executive trailer.)

One thought on “Those 70ish girls…Those six Sandersons

  1. sanjuan831 October 2, 2022 / 11:48 am

    No need to apologize, Yram. You executives and top notch reporters deserve a vacation. The photos and stories were
    all unique and beautiful- just like you.


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