Golden Jubillee - Chapter II - The Town Too Tough to Die
Page 6 - 7
Everyone at some time has experienced disaster in one way or another. It is usually interesting and in a strange way exciting to see those who have had much in the way of misfortune bounce back, so to speak, and be better than he was before. It is this aspect of the history of our town which give vitality to this tale.
Life in Brunsville for the first twenty years of its existence was always interesting and lively, but in the year 1931 something happened which was to make a deep scar in the town's existence. That was the year of the big fire. For some towns, a fire of this magnitude would have meant the end. After all, all that was remaining of the North side of the main business block was the Farmers Bank building. Gone was the Bank of Brunsville, Dickman's Store, Wilken's Meat market, Dirks Hardware, a garage, the pool hall, a restaurant and dancehall. This was comparable to taking the heart out of the human body. It should also be said that there was very little fire insurance in those days.
Many towns would have died after a disaster such as this. Many folks thought that is exactly what would happen in a matter of a few months or years. Not so the people of Brunsville. By mid-morning following the fire, the bank was ready for business as usual. Sometime during the night, the bank officers had purchased the building of the now defunct Farmers Bank. Before very many weeks had passed, Frerichs Wilken had moved an old feed storage building to the site of his burned out store and began to make it a showplace with his paintings and colored glass. This was to be the extent of any showings of confidence for many years, but misfortune did not end by any means.
A couple of years later, in 1933, the floods started to come. In some ways floods are worse than fires. After the flood was over there was always the big problem of cleaning up the mess, fears of disease and infected water supplies. Water always covered the lower part of town, filling basements and flowing into the first floor of most business places. We didn't know it in 1933, but these floods became almost an annual affair during the feast or famine thirties.
It was feast during the floods followed by famine or drought. These were the biblical "lean years" for the people of this area. No one will forget the heat-100 degrees and higher day after day. Oh, there were scattered showers which dried up before they hit the ground. The mid-day sun darkened by clouds of dust. Then the grasshoppers came and ate the little bits of green which had survived in the shade on the North side of the houses or a little patch we nursed along by daily waterings.
When it finally started raining again in the late thirties and early forties, we thought that better days must be ahead, and they were — but we had to have another big fire in 1940 — our elevator. This was perhaps the most spectacular fire we've ever had because of the height of the building. It was also filled with corn and grain which smoldered for weeks thereafter. Much time and work went into cleaning up the mess and by the time it was done another job was just getting started. This was the job of putting the old Hoese elevator building back into operating condition. This was no simple task, but it soon yielded to hard work and perseverance.
When one considers that most of these things occurred during the depression years of the 1930's, it magnifies them into proper perspective. Many places much larger and prosperous found the going to tough during these years. They gave up and moved away causing "ghost towns." These people of Brunsville did just the opposite. The tougher things got, the harder they fought. Most of us though, who lived through these years remember them not for the fires or floods, but as the years we put on the biggest and best celebrations. We recall the ball teams we had every year and the fun we had in the old swimmin hole down in the Mink Creek. Some will remember them as the years when we had time to dream about the future and listened to the old fellas tell stories. We had time for those things then. Yes, they call Tombstone, Arizona, the "town to tough to die", and this slogan might apply equally as well to this tough little burg.