Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

June 28, 2004

It seems a very long way for an ‘urb' to sprawl

Even those of us in the Diaspora know that Waverly is in the middle of a building boom. It's not just the new water tower which is going up on the east end of town, but the hundreds of new homes. None of my Waverly sources has complained at all about this. Everyone seems very positive about the growth and prosperity it will bring.

When Kennedy was president, the "fifty mile hike" became a "New Frontier" gimmick to get America in shape. At the time, that meant a walk to Minneapolis. Now, Minneapolis has come to Waverly. At least it seems so, even though this seems a very long ways for an "urb" to sprawl.

The last time I drove to Waverly, the Highway 12 traffic was bumper to bumper coming and going. In a way, it's much safer these days on Highway 12, because nobody tries to pass on the highway anymore.

It's hard now to tell where Montrose begins and Waverly ends. That three mile strip is now solid buildings. Gone is the lovely marsh on either side of Highway 12, where the sweet song of red-winged blackbirds could be heard every spring, if you walked to Montrose.

Items in "Ye Towne Gossip" in the old Waverly Star were often about young people from Waverly who worked in "the Cities," who came home on the weekend to visit their families. Nowadays, people drive back and forth to work every day to Minneapolis. I really am behind the times.

The boy in me is going to miss Drewelow's Slough, where I used to trap muskrats, and where I shot mudhens, and where, on the opening day of duck season, the slough was alive with duck hunters all around the pond, shoulder to shoulder. At sunup, the shotguns all going off at once made it sound like World War II.

Drewelow's Slough will now be called Kerrigan Lake, and it will be surrounded by "lake homes." That big development will be called Kerrigan Meadows. Meadows where cows will no longer graze.

There, too, goes Graham's Woods, which was a wonderful playground you could hike to after school, and where I shot rabbits and squirrels, and where St. Mary's High School students could sneak out at night, roast marshmallows, and sing around the fire. They were real woods.

I saw a mare deliver a colt in Graham's Woods one time, and when we ran and got Dan Graham, Dan came back in a pickup, and hauled the baby horse back to the barn, with its mother walking right behind the pickup, her nose over the tailgate. One of us sat in the pickup bed with the colt's head in our lap.

Not much farming will go on just west and south of town, either, where Kristall Homes are going up to the tune of $230,000 a piece for some of them. Other homes are more like "starter" homes, more reasonably priced.

Waverly had been dormant and landlocked for years when it came to housing stock. How many of us lived in new houses? Very few. The three different houses I lived in had been built in the 1920s.

Despite the growth, Waverly still has only one grocery store, and even that one almost shut down. Pete's Grocery was on the verge of folding ,like so many other Waverly businesses. After 25 years, Pete Chmielewski has decided to hang in there a while longer. He just had a 50th birthday, which some people threw at him after he had returned from a fishing trip up north on a Saturday night.

Everybody told me what a great speech John Peterson gave on Memorial Day. Wally and Arleen didn't tell me this, and neither did John. It seems, though, that the speech was so good, that John has established a tradition. From now on, they will use local talent for the Memorial Day speech.

The speech is a major event in the best attended Memorial Day celebration in the country. Dan Herbst and John O'Leary were local talent who led up to John Peterson's great speech this year.

Every year in Waverly, the celebration gets bigger and bigger. This year, even the Great Northern Railway cooperated. No trains interrupted the speech and the weather was perfect. The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School Band never sounded better.

There still hasn't been a woman selected to give the Memorial Day address. It's too bad they can't start out with Alice Smith, former mayor of Waverly, but her age and health prevent her from doing so, even though her mind and heart are clear as ever.

I had asked Ken Hausladen for some news. While he didn't have any news, he did have this to say:

"You should have been here two summers ago. You would have been proud. It was a living demonstration of work ethic, civic duty and pride. All our petty disputes were shelved. Neighbors helped neighbors day and night and Waverly folks pitched in and helped people they'd never even seen before.

"Waverlyites went to their jobs, came home tired, and then sand bagged until dark. It doesn't sound like much until you're on the second week of that diet, and come to realize just how much volunteers can do when they care about their town and their neighbors. People are at their best when situations are at their worst.

"Regarding your column on reading, I believe literature is like food. You are what you read, just like you are what you eat. When St. Mary's School was closed, a lot of the books from the St. Mary's School library went to the attic in the convent. When the convent was closed, I was drafted to help the nuns clean up. For my pay, I got one Coke on crushed ice from Homer Dredge's soda fountain. I also was the proud recipient of a piece of obsidian (black volcanic rock), which I still have. Since one of the nuns gave it to me, I still have it.

"Best of all were the three trash bags of books I got to pick out. Keep in mind that I was only 11 at the time. Dante, Isaac Asinov, Louis L'Amour, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hardy Boys, old issues of "Boy's Life." The list goes on and on. Thank you, Sister!"

I told Patty Ogle Campbell that I wanted to do a column on Waverly's summer recreation program because it was her father, Harold ("Sheik") Ogle, who started it.

Well, actually, it was Jon and Jeri Stephens who started it. It went like this: One day, I met Jon and Jeri as they were riding their bikes across the railroad tracks, and we stopped to talk.

They told me there was nothing to do in Waverly. They had to move out to Waverly from Minneapolis after their father died, and their mother had become postmistress in Waverly. I passed this on to Harold Ogle. Harold was wired in to both the Waverly City Council at the time, and the school board, and he got the ball rolling.

I'll tell the whole story next time. Not only did Harold get the ball rolling, but he kept it going. Jeri and Jon turned out to be great baseball players. They were both really good pitchers and could hit like crazy. They could play any position. Waverly won some ball games, even in that first summer.

Jeri and Jon keep up with Waverly. Every year they go fishing with Dan Herbst, at least one time.

When I called Patty, she told me the summer rec program is still going strong:

"Boys and girls ages 5-12 can play ball, coached by Chad Gagnon. Swimming lessons in the lake is still a great thing to do. The swimming instructor is Naomi Selzer, a recent college graduate, who hopes to get a teaching job.

This program continues because of the efforts of the Waverly Booster Club. These are some dedicated young women who hire the people, and provide other activities throughout the year. They produce events at Christmas, Easter and halloween, at no cost to the children. Somehow, they find the funds.

"Right now, some of the people who are making the Booster Club go are: Christine Kittock, Michelle Heuer (Duske), Cory Ragan, Tina Hausladen, Roseann Lentz (Karels) and Amy Marshel. Our hats go off to them!"

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