|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|street’s center lane and the only activity of note around the town was the continual whist
game at Orville Thompson’s (Tommie’s) corner restaurant.
Tommy was fire chief and headed a group of the village’s able bodied men who were
usually absent during the day cutting cordwood at a small wage. Those were depression
days . . . remember. In event of fire, just about everybody pitched in. The chief’s main
duty was to bring the red tank, unify the attack and decide if and when to spray.
As we admit for the third time, it was a bitter day, business was slow and Tommy had just
dealt a new hand of whist when the door blew opened and a telephone operator yelled,
“Fire at Bill Kromroy’s”, whisked a shawl back over her head and scooted back to her
duties across the street.
Whist was suspended but the players were far too old to fight fire. Tommy donned winter
gear, including rubber footwear because some word indicated a roof fire.
As he told afterward, he had debated sounding the fire bell but the depth of snow would
have required time to cross and no one could have heard the bell in the day’s hard wind.
Tommy headed for the door, picked up a tea kettle of water simmering on his heater,
placed it carefully on the front seat of his Model T and headed south. No flashing
bubble-topped police car led the way. There was no siren, just a cold Model T engine
doing its best to attain 20 mph.
There were flames roaring out of the chimney of the low rambler. A northwest wind
brought the fire straight off the top flue unto the roof and shingles were already burning.
Agile Bill Christianson, then a young man, had seen the blaze, reported to the central
office and had a ladder ready and in position. No time was wasted. With the tea kettle
carefully balanced the chief scaled the ladder and reached the critical spot. Because of the
swerving winds the fire did not have a good start, but made it difficult to stay on the roof.
In the meantime, Christianson entered the house and attacked the fire through the bottom
of the chimney and was doing effective work. On the roof, water from the tea kettle was
applied in driblets where need seemed most. As the blaze was dampened from below, the
roof fire came under control and in a half-hour danger was over. An excellent bit of work
by two active men.
The story continues - Tommy returned to the cafe, removed his outer clothing, refilled and
replaced the water kettle and attended to other necessary chores, sat down, picked up his
whist hand and after a quick appraisal - passed.
In weeks following when the chief was pressed regarding the happenings of that
afternoon, his only comment was, “It isn’t the amount of water poured on a building, it’s
the part that reaches the fire that produces results.”
Time was when every small town sported a baseball team. The class of play could hardly
be rated but the enthusiasm was there, possibly because there was a personal promotion by
those participating and also because at the same time it taught some responsibility. Feeder
systems for town teams came from coulee nines who very often ran leagues of their own.
Those days were a far cry from present day youth whose play is supervised from the first
day of school and who, as a result, have a difficult time organizing their personal
recreation hours, to say nothing of obtaining and caring for equipment or the grounds.
True, the class of play is better but the responsibility of passed days taught lessons
unobtainable under present supervised play.
But back to baseball, a forgotten sport in these small towns. As stated, if the youth wished
to play there was first a field, purchase of balls, bats, gloves and some sort of uniform.
There were hours of work putting a playing field in shape, some promotion to raise money
for equipment, advertising and schedules for games and then a matter of selecting and
training talent. The very last of these could involve difficult decisions because the hardest
workers at making a team go were sometimes