|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|by this magnetic personality of a man who also looked the part. I, of course, had seen him
early in the summer as a strawberry planter and was not enchanted. Besides, I had no
quarter to spend. As I passed the tent in mid afternoon on one occasion, I noticed Pete
was not around but the tent was open giving everyone a free view of the mastadon
remains. On my way to the train I passed the open doors of Aase’s saloon that afternoon
there saw “Curio” hanging unto the end of the bar. During his travels he had developed an
unquenchable thirst, and business had been good that day.
During the early days of the depression I was secretary of the Commercial Club and
saddled with the responsibility of securing a free act for some promotion. An inquiry for a
balloon ascension directed to an Indiana firm brought a reply with an astronomical price
and a paragraph inquiring if “Curio” Pete Olstad was alive and thriving. The individuals
went on to identify themselves as Alaskan acquaintances.
The friendship with Tex Rickard resulted in his having good tickets for every boxing show
in which Tex had a part. “Curio” had been an announcer at the saloon boxing shows in
Nome during the long Alaskan winters.
His travels may have lasted 25 years because after the mid-twenties he returned to his
small garden farm, called “Kamp-Kill-Kare” and raised strawberry plants. Naturally they
had a characteristic trade name of “Mastadon”. Occasionally there would be a short trip to
show the bones or to meet some old acquaintance through Eau Claire.
He was respected as a card player. The sleight of hand, card rippling and dealing must
have been the result of countless hours of practice. Clynt Olsen, a local bar operator,
remembers him for another reason, “Curio” came to town for supplies about every ten
days or so and on those occasions he always made an appearance at Clynt’s place for one
shot of “the cheapest whiskey” you have. A game of dice to decide a double or nothing
payment was always made, however, and in the seventeen years Clynt owned the bar,
“Curio” won every time.
He ended life tragically. It seemed a long epiglotis caused discomfort, requiring his doctor
to remove a portion. The soreness instilled the feeling that it was malignant, and although
he was assured otherwise, the fear remained. He left a note for step-daughter Minnie.
With the usual flourish “Curio” signed, “you will find me in the barn.”
Fire at Kromroy’s
Hearing older people recount happenings and problems of years long ago give many a
feeling that our forebearers were as occupied as we in preventing an overwhelming of
daily chores and events that burden everyday life. Where our grandparents had a major
problem we can counter with another of equal dimension but one hazard that has changed
little is the threat of fire. Theirs was the day of wood fires for home heating, usually with
an unlined chimney of brick that developed cracks over a period of years. Rare was a
house with a water supply or any kind of fire protection.
A chimney fire was frequent and the newest home was subject as readily as an old house.
A burnout of soot could come any day when a strong wind provided draft and a vacuum
to start the blaze. All this brings us to a few words of a true happening in this town and a
practical lesson in fire fighting by two active men.
The year was 1933, a cold, windy, cloudy winter day not fit for man or beast. The village
fire fighting equipment was meagre, an old hand-powered pumper (with no water supply)
and a 30 gallon chemical tank mounted on two buggy wheels. During cold weather the
chemical tank was stored at the Ford garage. It had one disadvantage. Once activated it
must empty itself and be refilled, but it was often stated that Strum never lost a building
while the red tank was on wheels. Sometimes it was not but that another story.
Back to the tale. As we said, all this occurred on a miserable day. Deep snow lay
everywhere, streets were unplowed except for main