Thursday, December 5, 2013

What’s Happening in Govert, South Dakota: Thursday, 5 December 1940

In preparation for Christmas, 73 years ago today, the Govert Advance published the instructions for Santa’s helpers to craft a four poster doll bed. All a mommy or daddy needed were a cigar box, four wooden clothes pins, four wooden thread spools, scraps of fabric to make a pad, pillow, and bedding, and a bit of paint. This, together with a late night of gluing, sewing, and painting, might be the best a Goverite could offer a young daughter for Christmas after struggling through 11 years of the Great Depression. The good news: only one more year of the Depression. The bad news: America would join the war.

Reading beyond the cigar box doll bed that Thursday night in 1940, a Govert family might have been comforted by their decision to choose a home on the Harding County prairie, 1800 miles from the east coast, far away from the bright lights and the crowding in the cities, and far, far away from the political wrangling.

That Thursday night in Govert, farmers and ranchers shook the creases out of the Govert Advance and read that New Yorkers were now being warned to be alert for suspicious packages. The abandoned box, bag, valise, or satchel might be a bomb positioned by “subversive and destructive elements” in America. "Thank goodness we don't have to worry about THAT," Goverites echoed across the prairie. Why in the world would any subversive, or any foreign spy, waste their time traveling to a place where the two-legged population was far outnumbered by the four-legged variety?

Continuing through the newspaper, they read about the destruction left by Nazi bombs in England. And then the Govert Advance reported a survey conducted by the United States Employment Service revealing 215,000 people registered with employment offices throughout the United States for jobs in defense industries ... should they be needed.

In December 1940 the folks in Govert are less worried about an abandoned valise or satchel left in a place where a bomb might be calculated to cause maximum damage to resources or morale, and they are more worried about Christmas. So what happened in Govert, South Dakota, the first week in December in 1940? You saw it first in the Govert Advance:
  • "Herman West and Archie Cornella are hauling hay from the Primm place to the JX Ranch for Howard Sheridan. Howard will winter a band of sheep at the ranch."
  • "Chester Phillips has been quite ill with pneumonia and was taken to the Buffalo hospital."
  • "Mr. and Mrs. F.F. West, of the West General Store at Govert, were shopping in Belle Fourche, Friday."
  • "Ann, Anton and John Kulisich were in Newell Friday, visiting the dentist."
  • "Guests at the Bert Ellis home Thanksgiving were Mr. and Mrs. Paul Ellis, daughter, Nona, and son, Harold, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Class, Mr. and Mrs. Mitch Kulisich, daughters, Ann and Marie, sons, Anton and John, and Leonard West."
  • "Wesley Horton and wife spent several days with relatives at Whitewood."
  • "Nick and Pete Lale took their dressed turkeys to Lead and received very satisfactory prices."
  • "Alice Mae West spent the weekend with Marie Kulisich."
  • "Mrs. Westley Horton is visiting her daughter, Evelyn, at Custer. Evelyn is taking a Beauty course at Custer and making her home with Mrs. Horton’s sister."
  • "Mr. and Mrs. Nick Lale entertained friends Thanksgiving Day."
  • "Mr. and Mrs. Louie Frandsen were in Belle Fourche Wednesday to get his pick up repaired. Mr. Frandsen slipped off the grade and turned over causing some little damage."
Life goes on. War may be raging in Europe but, in Govert, you do what you always have done. You tend to the work in front of you. You laugh when the opportunity presents itself, and you create as many of those pleasant opportunities as possible. On Thursdays you read the Govert Advance. And, in December, you might make a gift from an empty cigar box and scraps of fabric. Life goes on.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Based on the news reported in the 5 December 1940 edition of the Govert Advance]


  1. Sweetheart,

    Thanks for another enjoyable and informative blog posting.

    Again this week, you’ve given us a snapshot of “a day in the life of” Govert…this week the day is December 5, 1940. We see how life for the residents of Govert went on pretty much as usual despite the significant and dramatic events occurring elsewhere in the world. Even though “New Yorkers were now being warned to be alert for suspicious packages” (interestingly, a concern all too familiar to us in our day as well), Goverites are doing such routine things as farm chores, getting trucks serviced, receiving medical care, shopping, visiting friends and family, and sharing holiday meals. As you say, for the folks in Govert “life goes on,” even though we know war is “raging in Europe” and is on the near horizon for the U.S. as well (to include Govert).

    It’s also nice to see some familiar names again, like West, Lale, and Kulisich (especially Marie). Over the many weeks of your blog postings, we are coming to recognize and better know the various residents of Govert, and how they lived their lives at different points in time during the years Govert was active. We are learning about prairie life in the early 1900s, and we are becoming friends with many of Govert’s residents. So, you are very successfully fulfilling your “mission” as a researcher, writer, and historian to document, spread, and preserve the story of Govert and its residents.

    Thank you for educating and entertaining us with your wonderful blog postings. It’s a pleasure to read your entries each week, and to anticipate what we’ll see in the weeks to come.

  2. I love the down to earth news in this edition of your blog and in the december 1940 edition of the Govert Advance. How different were the times indeed for our ancestors during that time. Holland was already being occupied by the Nazis for seven months. The first months had been relatively easy and though strange the occupying forces weren't that much in evidence in the first few months. Not so for Rotterdam and its inhabitants. The city had its complete old heart bombed out as a warnign what was about to happen when the Dutch would not capitulate. After that bombardment with thousands of old houses and buildings lost and almost 900 dead, the Dutch did indeed capitulated because the Germans threathened to boms more cities. Our newspaper news was as different from the New York news as the Govert news was from the New York news. There must have been many Dutch that would have loved to live on the American prairie at the time...

    That is just one aspect that makes your blog so interesting to read. It makes me see things in perspective and makes me look at family history with a different eye at times.

    Thank you Kate

    1. Hans, thank you for sharing your valuable perspective as a Dutchman and historian. Every immigrant to the US left behind family and friends they might - for whatever reason - never see again. As the war progressed, the worries must have rested heavily on their minds. What incredible suffering for those within reach of the bombs.

  3. Loved browsing through the Govert Advance with you Kate! Reading what the old neighbors were doing those many years ago just made me feel good. Thanks!

    1. I've enjoyed getting to know your old neighbors, Betty. Reading the Govert Advance is like sharing a pot of coffee over a chasm of the years. I've also enjoyed getting to know you through your column in The Nation's Center News!



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