When I was a little girl, we visited Aunt Helen and Uncle Bob and their four kids in Michigan just once. We only saw them once in a while because we lived in Pennsylvania pretty far from their house, and had only been to Murdo, South Dakota for a few SANDERSON family reunions together during the summer. But after seeing Aunt Helen a few times and noticing how pretty she was, I decided to name my new dark haired doll Helen in her honor. To me that was the perfect name.
Aunt Helen was the fourth child born to Grandma and Grandpa SANDERSON and the last to be born before the family moved to a little log cabin on Horse Creek about 7 miles outside of Murdo. Her brother Jeff’s birth had been difficult so her dad, my Grandpa, drove his wife a very long distance in a wagon/carriage to Mitchell Hospital when the time came. Helen was named Mary Helen but was called Helen so as not to be confused having her mother’s first name.
It was a tough life on the farm there. Even though the family had a Model A, Grandpa later bought a Model T which made the two miles on dirt roads then the 5 miles on gravel roads easier. Aunt Helen later wrote that she was always happy growing up even in tough times. She dressed the farm kittens like her babies and loved playing house, even though she had chores and worked hard as did the entire family. The kids road a horse three miles to school and did not like leaving their horse all day in the barn at school with no food. There were 12 students in the country school in eight grades.
The Osborn family also attended school with the SANDERSONS and only had bread with cocoa junk on their bread sandwiches. That was a mixture of sugar, cocoa and whole milk which would soak into the homemade bread. The Osborn family was poor. They had 13 children. Helen felt lucky to have sardine sandwiches at school for lunch. A tin of sardines cost 4 cents and she recalled that some were canned in mustard or tomato sauce and were tasty.
Helen recalls that her Dad, ME SANDERSON was strict. If their Mom, Mary, couldn’t handle the kids, she would say in a low voice, “I will have to tell your Dad.” One time ME put her on top of a tall cupboard to discipline Helen. Or to show the other kids who was boss.
Helen was a dark haired, slim girl in high school. Later she went to business school out in Rapid City after my Mom, Ella, gave her the money to attend. She eventually met her future husband Bob who graduated from School of Mines and he got a job in Michigan with the auto manufacturer, Chevrolet. They left the day after getting married and drove with another couple all the way to Michigan from South Dakota. They raised their four children there in Michigan. One summer my parents bought a car from Bob and Helen. The two families met in Murdo so my parents could drive it home later. They were so proud to have gotten a relatively new car from Bob and Helen.
Later in life, when Bob had passed away, Helen went to live near a daughter in South Dakota once again. She regularly wrote beautiful letters to her brothers and sisters with a neat flowing cursive handwriting. I remember my mother read those letters over and over and kept many of them. Aunt Helen was always happy as long as the sun shone. And she was always beautiful inside and out.