By Richard Peterson
If you looked at the front page, you couldn’t miss the news that my uncle, Ed Peterson, will be inducted into Minnewaukan’s Hall of Fame on Saturday.
He died more than 45 years ago so not many people knew him or even remember him, but his efforts had a profound positive effect on Minnewaukan. Let me tell you a little bit about him.
Ed was first of all a mechanic, a blacksmith and a machinist. His interest turned to electricity and he was a self-taught electrician.
He used his fingers for testing for electrical current. If he got a shock it meant the electricity was flowing. I saw him do this many times.
He understood telephones when telephones were completely new to this area. He set up the telephone system around Vang, ND, where he was born.
His mechanic work eventually caused him to begin selling Oliver machinery for Gerald Huebschwerlen who owned the dealership. Ed became a partner of Gerald and shortly thereafter became the dealership’s sole owner.
The mechanic shop for his dealership still stands in Minnewaukan just west of Trinity Free Lutheran Church. The parts department was located on the first floor of the old Masonic Temple, which itself was a remnant of the huge Arlington Hotel. The Masonic Temple was located exactly where Trinity Free Lutheran Church is located. The implement dealership business office was located in the basement of the old Farmers State Bank on the corner north across the street from Dakota Spirits (presently the Johnson Insurance building).
Ed was quite a salesman. He sold Oliver equipment all over the county. I worked for him part of one summer (1959 or 1960, I think) and I remember delivering new machinery to the farm of Roy and Mary Lou Meyer near Harlow and Walter and Irene Wolfe near Fillmore.
Ed also sold Chevrolet cars under a sub-dealership through Lake Chevrolet in Devils Lake.
He was a staunch Republican and this probably cut into his implement sales. I know he didn’t sell many tractors in Isabel Township. Then again, he probably sold some tractors to farmers who had the same political leanings.
He had a paid advertising column in the Farmers Press in the 1950’s that advocated the Republican philosophy. John Deere dealer Paul Liechty of Leeds responded with a paid advertising column that touted the Democratic line. People found this quite interesting to have two implement dealers publicly dueling over politics with each other.
I don’t know about Paul, but I know Uncle Ed had some help with his columns. Among those who collaborated with Ed on the columns were Vic Helberg of Minnewaukan, Carl Goranson of Oberon, Bill Reeves of Warwick and Farmers Press editor Les Strand. There probably were others. All were staunch Republicans and I remember them meeting with Ed at the Farmers Press on at least one occasion, presumably to churn out a column to respond to Liechty (I was working for Strand at the Farmers Press at the time, probably in 1959 or 1960).
Whether he had help with the column is beside the point. It was Ed who put his name on the column and took the heat. He never shrank from political debate or taking a stand on something he believed in, even if it hurt his business.
He was well-known as a terrible driver with a lead foot. His old Packard made many a swift trip. While driving his mind would wander on how to solve a mechanical or electrical problem. He must have been lucky because I don’t remember him having any serious accidents.
His best friend was probably Dr. E.O. Yri, a dentist who practiced in Minnewaukan for many years. Both early risers, they were the first customers at Dot’s Coffee Cup, a cafe which was located where the home of Mike and Carole Lysne stands today. I think Dot Mahany (mother of Grace Ball of Minnewaukan) opened at 5 or 5:30 a.m. Ed and Doc were probably there in the morning waiting for her to unlock the door.
Another close friend was Vic Helberg, Minnewaukan’s legendary banker.
Vic provided the loans to keep the dealership afloat. Ed wasn’t a wealthy man and without Helberg’s financial backing, the business would never have gotten off the ground.
Ron Goff mentions Minnewaukan’s water system in his tribute to his grandfather. Believe it or not, this was a very divisive issue.
Everybody in town already had an outdoor privy and many had septic systems. Most had cisterns and some even had wells. Why spend big money to provide water and sewer when our basic needs are already being met? There were many people who were hopping mad about the unnecessary expense they were being forced to bear. Public meetings got ugly.
Fortunately however, Vic Hel-berg, Ed Peterson, Milson Ball, L.L.
Butterwick and others carried the day with their steadfast support of water and sewer for Minnewaukan. It became a reality on Dec. 9, 1954 when the first home was connected and water flowed out of the faucet.
That was the home of Ed and Inga Peterson.