JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Fishing On D-Day With An American Hero

D-Day. June 6, 1944.

Seventy-four years ago today, my father-in-law, Garland Crook, got his feet wet — literally and figuratively — entering combat in World War II by going ashore on Normandy Beach.

Today, Jeff and I are going to try to keep him from getting his feet wet as we help him into the boat on the Missouri River. We’re going fishing.

Garland’s an American hero, and there aren’t many left who participated in that fateful day. I’ve asked him about it, and he’s talked about it from time to time, but he’s not eager to bring it up. Today, though, in a boat, like he was June 6, 1944, maybe he’ll feel like talking. Last time I asked him, he just said “Jim, we were a bunch of scared kids.”

Garland was 19 years old that day. He survived Normandy Beach and became a career soldier. He spent his working life in the U.S. Army, serving during three wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He retired to a farm in North Dakota, then retired from farming and now lives not far from his daughter, Lillian, and me in Bismarck.

Garland loves to fish. Every summer for the past four or five years since he moved to Bismarck, we’ve gotten him in the boat. It’s not easy, for us or for him.  Every winter, over supper, I tell him we can’t wait to get him out in the boat again next summer. Every winter he says, “Jim, I’m afraid my fishing days are over.”

Then summer comes, and I call him and say, “Garland, are you interested in fishing tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’m interested,” he’ll respond, “but I’m not sure I can do it. Let me get back to you.”

The “get back to you” part takes about 15 minutes — a little longer this year because it took him longer to get out to the garage, either in his wheelchair or using his walker, to check to make sure his rods and reels and tackle box made it through another winter.

Then my phone rings and he says, “What time?”

10 a.m. today. I’ll report in.

DAVE BRUNER: Photo Gallery — North Dakota Veterans Cemetery

On Memorial Day, flowers and flags are plentiful at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, located  6.5 miles south of Mandan on state Highway 1806 on a 35-acre tract of land in the southwest corner of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. The cemetery, established by an act of the 1989 North Dakota Legislative Assembly, opened in July 1992.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The History of Highland Acres, Conclusion

OIL TO THE RESCUE

A pair of Bismarck oil men, new to North Dakota and chasing the state’s first small oil boom, likely made the deal of their life in early 1952, acquiring almost the entire 127-acre tract of Highland Acres, complete with partially constructed streets, water mains, a couple of dozen good residents and the potential to earn a healthy return on a relatively small investment, for just enough to let the credit union recover its own investment.

Bismarck residents picked up their newspapers from their doorsteps June 6, 1952, to see the following headline blaring at them from the front page:

Wilhite, Seay Buy Highland Acres

That’s a headline that probably caused the paper’s late editor Ken Simons, whose dream of a cooperatively-owned housing development died with that headline, to roll over in his grave.

The good news was that the two men who bought the development, Irvin J. Wilhite and Arthur Seay, pledged to retain the restrictive clauses in the deeds.

“What we want,” they told The Tribune, “is to make the area the most desirable in Bismarck. After all, we’re North Dakotans now, and we plan to live there ourselves. It would be a shame for a subdivision as well-planned as Highland Acres and in such a fine location to be spoiled by indiscriminate building and development.”

The Tribune said the men owned 246 lots, and planned to require houses “in the same general class as those that are there,” with prices expected to be in the $17,000 to $20,000 range. The immediate problem was getting sanitary sewer service to the development. Existing homes all had their own individual septic systems. With the new owners on board, the city moved forward, completing the first stretch by the end of the year. As the sewer system moved forward, homes began to be developed along the streets where sewer and water lines had been installed.

Wilhite, who was the visible partner and spokesman for the company, was a native South Dakotan and a former World War II bomber pilot who became a flamboyant Bismarck personality and founder of the Nokota Co., an oil and gas exploration company. He served three sessions as a state senator in the North Dakota Senate, from 1967-71, and was the majority leader in the 1971 session. He later became a real estate developer in Costa Rica, where he resides today, at age 97.

He and Seay incorporated as Capital City Development and were finally successful at marketing the properties and developing the Highland Acres we know today. By 1956, according to records at the Bismarck City Hall, lots along most of the streets were filling up with homes, thanks mostly to the advertising and sales efforts by the real estate company hired by Capital City Development, Hedden Real Estate.

Hedden took a different approach to marketing the lots and homes in the development, using radio, television and splashy newspaper ads using colorful sales pitches:

  • “The Place of Beauty with An Eye to the Future.”
  • “The Dreams of Young and Old Alike Are Fulfilled In This Wonderful New Addition … Here YOU Decide the Design of Your Family Home!.”
  • “Luxury, Pride, PLUS economy is your family’s future in Highland Acres.” 

FOUR MORE ADDITIONS

Another nearby landowner was keeping a close eye on Wilhite and Seay as they were filling up their vacant lots. When the original plat for Highland Acres was filed, it left a large open space between the country club and the eastern boundary of Highland Acres, about 40 acres.

Ell Torrance, longtime Bismarck resident and president of the A.W. Lucas Co., which owned the largest department store in Bismarck at the time, owned a tract of land adjacent to the back lot lines on Crescent Lane, the eastern boundary of Highland Acres. He’d built a large home atop the high hill, looking west toward the Missouri River over the roofs of the new homes in Highland Acres, looking east toward the golf course and north toward Jackman Coulee. His children had the run of the prairie, with the eight acres he owned and 32 more acres adjacent to his land to the north, giving them almost 40 acres of open space.

But as Torrance watched the homes going up along Crescent Lane, he decided to develop his own property, creating Torrance Hill Addition and Torrance Addition in the winter of 1956-57. His plat for Torrance Addition was much the same as Highland Acres, with about 20 lots on one long, wide, winding street, with curb and gutter, but no sidewalks. Two more large homes were built on top the hill in Torrance Hill Addition, including a large rock-faced home by Harold Schafer, founder of the Gold Seal Co. and father of modern Medora. Those homes remain today.

Much to the chagrin of his children, his son, Richard, told me many years later, Torrance began selling lots and building homes almost immediately. There went the neighborhood, Richard said. The addition ended up with 19 single-story ranch style homes, much like their neighbors behind them on Crescent Lane, on the street he named Arthur Drive, running north to near the edge of the coulee, all but five completed in a building flurry on the street in 1958 and 1959, with four more completed in the 1960s and the last, on the big lot at the end of the street, in 1973.

Wilhelm and Seay, meanwhile, with most of their lots developed and seeing the success of Torrance, purchased the property north of Torrance’s and created Highland Acres Second and Third Additions, about 32 acres surrounding a large green space along Jackman Coulee.

The 56 lots in Highland Acres Second were laid out along long, winding streets on both sides of the coulee, which had been deeded to the Park District back in 1946 in exchange for what, by the early 1960s, had become the addition’s “Pill Hill,” the area where architects designed a handful of high-end homes — but still one-story with mostly one-car garages — for doctors and other wealthy residents.

The two major streets through the new addition were named Parkview Drive and Coulee Drive. Highland Acres Third lay east of Highland Acres Second, facing the golf course along Ward Road, now the milelong major thoroughfare through west Bismarck. Here, half the homes faced west toward the Jackman Coulee park area, and half were in two large cul de sacs, so there were no through streets in the addition, and the homes in the two cul de sacs, Highland Place and Cottage Drive, though many of them upscale, again were all single family homes.

HIGHLAND ACRES TODAY                          

The eventual path of development of Highland Acres can be traced by taking a fascinating drive around the major street in the addition, Highland Acres Road, which completely encircles the development. On South Highland Acres Road, where Avenue C, the entrance to the subdivision, ends, the houses are of the Farwest Homes design — small, one-story, ground-level entrances and single-car garages — and were built for around $10,000, some less.

But as you drive north along the street, the homes begin to get larger, culminating about half-mile from the subdivision’s entrance at the top of “Pill Hill” on the very north end of the development. As you continue around the loop and head back south to the entrance to Highland Acres, the homes again become more modest, so it is clear the developers sought to preserve the integrity of the neighborhoods, rather than intermingling large and small homes. You can almost hear Ken Simons cheering, “Hooray for Wilhite and Seay!”

A drive through the Highland Acres neighborhoods in 2018 will confirm that the early promise made by Wilhite and Seay to retain the planned character of the addition was a good one, and that the vision of the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association has been fulfilled.

Now Highland Acres is a large, friendly neighborhood of nearly 400 single-family ranch-style homes, with no more than a dozen two-story homes in the entire development, although there are a number of split-entry and garage tuck-under designs, to take advantage of the addition’s hilly terrain. Two churches and a school, long winding streets carved into the land’s contours, green spaces for families to recreate, numerous cul-de-sac streets for quiet residential areas and a complete absence of any commercial activity, except children’s lemonade stands on warm summer afternoons, maintain the area’s reputation as, indeed, still one of the most desirable places to live in Bismarck, fulfilling the dream Ken Simons and his fellow veterans envisioned more than 70 years ago.

And much of what made that possible was the Veterans’ Co-op’s ability to take advantage of North Dakota’s unique history to get the project off the ground back in the 1940s. The cooperative movement was especially strong here in this prairie state, and the foresightedness of the Farmers Union, still the major cooperative influence in the state today, in creating a major credit union, basically a cooperatively-owned bank, whose only goal was to provide financing for the improvement of the lives of its members, and its willingness to provide the initial capital to purchase the land and begin building homes, was the initial driving force in making the development a reality.

Then, the Bank of North Dakota, the only state-owned bank in America, created in the state’s socialist era by the Nonpartisan League, provided the initial financing for the first twenty or so homes.

And then the discovery of oil as the second half of the 20th century began brought the two entrepreneurs, Wilhite and Seay, to the state, and they quickly caught the spirit of North Dakota, motivated not only by profit, but also by the sense of community, in retaining the characteristics of the original idea of the veterans group.

The five additions form a contiguous neighborhood, still with no through streets, bounded by a golf course on its east side, a state college on its north side (both within walking distance of Highland Acres residents), a railroad right-of-way and a few hundred acres of open space on the west, between the houses and the Missouri River, and on the south side, the famous “Avenue C,” the exit road from the subdivision leading to downtown Bismarck’s commercial area.

Today second- and even some third-generation residents occupy the homes, enough young families to not only fill the school, but in recent years, create a need for additional portable classrooms to accommodate all of them.

Here’s the makeshift bridge and the Tarzan rope over the creek in Highland Acres, just waiting for school to get out and the neighborhood kids to arrive.
Here’s the makeshift bridge and the Tarzan rope over the creek in Highland Acres, just waiting for school to get out and the neighborhood kids to arrive.

On summer afternoons, you’ll find boys and girls hard at work building secret forts in the trees along the heavily wooded hillsides of Jackman Coulee, and makeshift bridges only the youngest and bravest of us would dare to venture across, from one side of the narrow, flowing creek to the other. And parents can often hear a Tarzan-like yell as their kids swing across the creek on a rope hung from a large boxelder tree in that marvelous green space, envisioned as a children’s park more than 70 years ago, and today untouched by even as much as a sidewalk.

The big hill from Parkview Drive down to the coulee’s bottom is a favorite sledding hill in winter, and snowmen dot the coulee’s landscape, melting in spring into the gurgling water flowing west from the golf course through Highland Acres on its meandering way to the Missouri River.

Highland Acres is an important 20th-century historical achievement, one not likely ever to be repeated, or even proposed, again. It is certainly significant to the history of Bismarck, and, as Dr. Ames said, the history of post-World War II housing is an important historical American resource.

Still, in Bismarck conversations, when someone is asked where they live, and the answer is “Highland Acres,” there’s a noticeable pause, in recognition that it is a special place in the city. But most don’t know the story of the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association, and how Highland Acres came to be, and how it remains remarkably true to its founders’ vision. It’s a story that needs to continue to be shared.

Here’s a link to some historic photos on file at the Bismarck Public Library.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The History of Highland Acres, Part 5

MOVING IN

Here are the first 21 residents of Highland Acres, gleaned from the files of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Notice they are all just men’s names, the “heads of households.” We assume they all had wives as well. And probably children. I don’t have the dates of the purchase of each of these homes, but I’m pretty sure most of them were in late 1948 or 1949. See if you recognize any of these, or are related to them.

  • Horace Muller.
  • Earle A. Larson.
  • John R. Sarumgard.
  • Waldemar C. Johnson.
  • Glenn E. Brekke.
  • John P. Reinert.
  • James E. Long.
  • Elmer Herbramson.
  • Roy Schimer.
  • Homer B. Golden.
  • Roy G. Melby.
  • Harold J. Yeasley.
  • Ernst J. Pohlig.
  • John C. Neibauer.
  • Charles H. Wing.
  • Robert M. Howie.
  • Walter P. Buck.
  • Walter C. Engel.
  • Henry T. Brown.
  • George Haugarth.
  • Kenneth J. Kucera. 

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

But by late 1949, 21 residents was far below projected progress, and the co-op found itself in financial trouble. The nationwide postwar housing boom had caused prices for building materials to “skyrocket,” according to a letter to the Cooperative League of the USA from Association secretary Virgil Luyben, and as a result, “About a third of the families could not make the additional cash payments required and had to lose a considerable amount on forced sales.”

So the association’s cash was gone, and bills were mounting. That created a problem for the association, which was paying to build the homes but found themselves still owning a number of them. The cost of the materials and labor for the homes had begun driving up the prices from what was expected to be at most $11,000 to $12,000 to $14,000 to $15,000, and not all prospective owners could afford these, or get financing.

Problems also arose with the FHA guarantees, after the first 21 homes had been completed, so the association’s officers turned to their representatives in Washington, D.C., for help. Sens. William Langer and Milton Young and Reps. Usher Burdick and William Lemke sought legislative help from their colleagues, to no avail. Without the loan guarantees, the development stalled.

The association kept working with the congressional delegation throughout 1949 and 1950, but the delegation’s frustration was as great as those back home. In a letter to Virgil Luyben, the association’s treasurer, Congressman Lemke (an isolationist who had opposed the United States’ entry into World War II) wrote that he had introduced an amendment to provide funding to the FHA for North Dakota’s veterans but didn’t sound optimistic:

“Whether that amendment will be accepted when the bill comes up, I do not know. You may rest assured that I shall do all I can to assist the veterans who are interested in this matter and who, I feel, did not get a fair deal.

“I am fully aware that when the war drums began to beat for World War II, nothing was too good for the boys who we sent again to fight and win the war that other nations started.

“But since they have returned, our government has been more interested in furnishing homes and squandering money over in Europe and forgetting the real protectors of our nation and the winners of wars that other nations started.”

Lemke’s efforts were unsuccessful. The Farmers Union-owned Central Credit Union was left with no choice but to foreclose on the association. At a meeting on March 30, 1951, the association’s board and the Credit Union reached an agreement that “the property known as Highland Acres should be transferred immediately from the association to the credit union by quit claim deed.”

Richard Joyce, secretary-treasurer of the credit union, wrote in a letter to the association dated April 11, 1951, that the credit union had devised a marketing plan for the remaining homes and lots in the subdivision and would begin offering them for sale, in an attempt to recoup its investment.

In a truly magnanimous gesture, “If and when the indebtedness to Central Credit Union is completely retired, all remaining lots will immediately be deeded back to the association and Central Credit Union will immediately retire from any further interest or activity in the association’s affairs,” Joyce wrote. And in another important show of good will, much to the association’s relief, he wrote “Central Credit Union will not in any way tamper with existing covenants during the promotional campaign.”

It was a bittersweet moment for the association’s board of directors. The agreement meant that the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association, which had been conceived, born and existed as a mostly all-volunteer effort for five years, by veterans wanting to take care of other veterans, no longer had any stake in its plan. But it would not be disbanded and would continue to exist on paper, with the hope that the credit union could recover its investment and put the cooperative association back in business at some future date.

Within just a few weeks, the credit union began its marketing efforts with a huge, two-thirds page ad in The Tribune:

*  *  *  *

FOR SALE

Lots — Lots of Lots

“Highland Acres addition to Bismarck is recognized as probably the finest potential residential area of any city in North Dakota, if not in the entire Northwest. This property is in the northwest section of the city, southwest of the capitol, just north of Avenue C and just west of the old country club.

“The project was originally conceived and sponsored by the late Ken Simons and other public spirited citizens of Bismarck shortly after World War II to expand and improve living conditions in this city.

“The 127 ½ acre area was purchased and platted. Streets were laid out. Special covenants were approved to keep this strictly a residential area of one family dwellings. Shopping and community centers are reserved, as is an area for school and playgrounds and parks. There are no alleys. Eleven “tot park” (playground) areas are set aside. Sixty-four of the 312 lots are sold. 27 homes have been built and are occupied. 72 lots are on city water and of this number, 28 lots are not sold. Water can easily be extended as other lots are sold and improved.

“North Dakota Central Credit Union made advances to the Association for purchase of the land, for surveying and platting, for filling and driveways, for water installation, for appraisals and for initial promotion and operation. The credit union was to be repaid as lots were sold.

“High building costs, lack of support, inexperience and some opposition prevented the Association from achieving its worthy goal. It finally became necessary for the Credit Union to acquire the property. This was done voluntarily by the Association.

“This Credit Union is not in the real estate business by choice. Therefore the Credit Union is disposing of the property by offering lots for sale at attractive prices without disruption of any of the original plans of the Association. Any lots remaining after the Credit Union has recovered its investment will be returned to the Association.

“This is our plan for selling this choice property. First, all members of the Association living in Bismarck have been given first chance of purchasing their choice of unsold lots during the period of May 1 to date. Second, this ad for residents of Bismarck and surrounding trade area offers people who live in this section of the state second choice of the remaining lots. This same information is being sent by letter to a select rural mailing list in Emmons, Burleigh, southern McLean, Mercer, Oliver, Morton, Grant, and Sioux counties. These are people who, when and if they retire, are likely to choose Bismarck as their new home. This offer is being made from now to July 15.

“Third, sale of any remaining lots needed to retire remaining indebtedness to Central Credit Union after July 15 has been guaranteed by individual members of local credit unions throughout North Dakota which have funds invested in Central.

“Appraised prices of these lots range from $285 to $920. Whatever your choice of a lot or lots, they may be had for 75 per cent of the original appraised price—if purchased by July 15. These are big lots and good lots. Our representative in Bismarck is Mrs. Mary E. Owens, Great Plains Real Estate and Housing Company, 319 Seventh Street, Bismarck. She has maps, plats, prices, and all other necessary information. See her at once for your choice of property. All taxes are paid. Good title will be furnished.

“BISMARCK IS ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING CITIES IN NORTH DAKOTA. IT IS THE STATE CAPITAL. IT IS NEAR GARRISON DAM AND ITS POTENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS. IT MAY BE THE CENTER OF OIL AND OTHER INDUSTRIES IN WESTERN NORTH DAKOTA. BISMARCK’S PLACE IN THIS PROGRESSIVE GROWTH, LIKE OTHER CITIES IN THIS AREA, IS CONTINGENT UPON ADEQUATE AND DESIRABLE HOUSING. THERE IS NO MORE PROMISING NOR ATTRACTIVE POSSIBILITY THAN HIGHLAND ACRES.”

*  *  *  *

Association members hoped against hope that the credit union, with its advertising, would succeed in selling enough lots to recover its investment and return the remainder of the addition back to the cooperative. But with a debt of more than $60,000, it was going to take the sale of a huge number of the remaining 250 lots.

As the credit union said in its ad, it was not in the real estate business by choice. And it was not the credit union’s forte. The idea that the credit union could sell enough lots to retire the debt and return the unsold lots to the Association was not to be.

Its marketing effort brought a trickle of interest, but within a year, the credit union decided it needed to recover its money and get out. The solution was to sell the whole development. And for lucky developers, the price was right because the credit union was not involved to make a profit — it just wanted to recover its investment.

Next: Final installment. Oil to the rescue. Highland Acres today.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The History of Highland Acres, Part 4

1948: BUILDING HIGHLAND ACRES BEGINS

The Bismarck Tribune reported in April 1948 that “Twelve houses are under construction in Highland Acres, the addition on the western edge of the city owned by the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association.”

The paper said that the housing co-op had also contracted for construction of nine additional homes.

Looking over the building plans for the first round of construction, The Tribune reported “Eight houses are 24 feet by 36 feet, 10 are 24 feet by 38 feet, and three are 24 feet x 46 feet. They are shipped in panels and all accessory parts are pre-cut.”

The Tribune continued “Five of the buildings have the upper framework in place, four have progressed as far as the main floor on which work will be done at once.”

The Tribune hoped that 21 homes would be occupied by July 1. But the hoped-for construction scheduled proved too optimistic. Only four homes, in addition to the manager’s home and office, were completed over the summer, and The Tribune reported that, “On the 26th of October, the first four families moved into the Bismarck Highland Acres veterans housing addition, at 1118, 1119, 1120 and 1123 South Highland Acres Road. They were greeted by freshly graveled streets, which the city had agreed to do.”

But before construction began, the association’s board drew up, and the membership approved, a set of strict protective covenants, designed to create what the members hoped would be the most family-friendly neighborhood in Bismarck. Among the restrictions placed on the development were:

•All lots will be for residential use only, except a small area at the entrance to the addition, which is designated commercial, and areas set aside for schools and parks. (Note: the commercial area was later dropped from the plan, and an exception was made for two churches in the addition.)

  • Only single-family dwellings, no higher than two stories, with garages, will be permitted.
  • All houses are to be for single families only — no apartments will be allowed — except that servants’ quarters will be allowed. (emphasis added)
  • All “unsightly service entries, yards, and appurtenances must be adequately and tastefully screened from public view,” and dwellings “shall be of such style and proportions as are in keeping with the residential community.”
  • Buildings, fences, walls, walks, drives and other structures must be approved by a committee of the association before being built.
  • Hedges, trees, shrubbery and other plantings, as well as landscaping and grading, must be approved by a committee of the association.
  • Houses will have 30-foot setbacks from front lot lines and street lines, 8-foot setbacks from side lot lines, and 20-foot setbacks from all easements.
  • Seven-foot utility easements are required on side property lines, but they may not be used for vehicular traffic.
  • Minimum size restrictions depend on the size of the lot, but none will be smaller than 600 square feet on the main floor.
  • Exceptions to the covenants can be granted by the board of directors of the association for specific reasons.
  • No trailer, mobile structure, basement, tent or garage may be used as a dwelling.
  • Nuisances are not allowed. Examples are refuse piles, unsightly signs, unkempt yards, poultry, livestock and unusual pets, and “ugly fences, ugly landscaping and ugly exterior paint color.”
  • No “noxious or offensive trade or activity” shall be carried out on any lot.
  • If the covenants are in conflict with the recorded plat, the covenants rule.

At last, two full years after the first meeting was held at the Bismarck Veterans Club, the Highland Acres housing community for returning World War II veterans was becoming a reality.

The manager’s house and association office was completed in the summer of 1948, and it served as an office, although the manager did not move in to live there. But to speed up development, the association began a marketing program to sell the lots and get commitments for more houses to be built. In a report to stockholders dated May 27, 1948, the association reported it possessed “unselected lots” with a retail value of $107,900, with the average price of a lot being $400.

One of the problems was association members who found themselves financially unable to follow through on their commitments to build a home in the development. For example, the association received a letter from Anton Gress of Mandan, N.D., that said “Well, I’m pretty long to get together the money to build, but I can now see it’s impossible for me so please put my lot up for sale as soon as possible. Answer soon.”

Shortly after the office opened the following ad began running in The Bismarck Tribune:

LOTS FOR SALE

A limited number of lots are now on sale in Bismarck’s modern addition, planned for family living. Spacious lots with plenty of elbow room and expansion for a home. See the Highland Acres development off the west end of Avenue C. Inquire at the Avenue C office.

And seeking to attract attention to the development, other uses were found for the office. On Oct. 2, 1948, The Tribune reported that the house would be used as a Sunday School location.

“To accommodate children living in west Bismarck, Zion Lutheran Church will open a branch Sunday School at the office of Highland Acres at the west end of Avenue C. Beginning Classes will be held Sunday (Oct. 3) at 10 a.m. Parents who are interested are invited to send their children. A recent canvas of the area showed a need for a Sunday School in that sector.”

Church records do not tell us how long the house was used for that purpose, but it certainly was a good tactic by the association to draw attention to their new development.

The Tribune remained steadfast in its efforts to assist the development. Shortly after editor Simons’ death, The Tribune hired a veteran journalist, John O. Hjelle, as its new editor. Hjelle had been working in Washington D.C.. as an aide to Sen. Milton R. Young and had been instrumental in setting up meetings for the Homeowners Association’s board with the Federal Housing Agency, which led to the agency’s granting of loan guarantees for mortgages by association members. So Hjelle brought a solid knowledge of the Highland Acres project with him to the editor’s job, and made sure The Tribune’s coverage did not wane as the project progressed.

A story in the paper in June reported that Bismarck was facing a school shortage, in common with the rest of the nation. The School Board did a survey, and one of the conclusions they reached, as reported in The Tribune, was “Should the Veterans addition, Highland Acres, on the western edge of the city, develop as is now planned, a site for a new school should be obtained there. At first, a primary school would be sufficient. The site, however, should be large enough that a wing for the intermediate grades could be added if necessary.”

The school became a reality in 1958. According to the Bismarck Public School District’s website, “Highland Acres Elementary was built on land donated to the district by Veterans of World War II in 1958. It was expanded in 1963. The school name reflects its geographical location.”

Today Highland Acres School serves students in kindergarten through grade 5.

DRESSING UP THE NEIGHBORHOOD

As homes began to sprout on the prairie, alongside newly graveled streets in preparation for winter’s snows, the association activated its Community Facilities Committee, under the leadership of Mrs. Kenneth Piper. The committee decided it wanted to take steps do the things “necessary to make this area an ideal neighborhood,” with adequate nursery schools, parks, playgrounds and nearby commercial establishments to serve the addition, which was a long way (for the times) from downtown commercial areas, schools and parks.

Seeking advice, they sent letters to pretty much anyone they could think of that had experience in developing new communities. The list included:

  • Parents Magazine.
  • The National Association for Nursery Education.
  • The Child Welfare League of America.
  • The National Education Association.
  • The University of Iowa Institute of Child Welfare.
  • The American Public Welfare Association.
  • The American Medical Association.
  • The University of Minnesota Institute of Child Welfare.
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor Children’s Bureau.
  • The Child Study Association.
  • The Association for Childhood Education

The responses they received have long since been lost, but today’s Highland Acres meets all of those goals except the commercial establishments, remaining 100 percent single0-family homes, with no apartment buildings or duplexes, along with parks, playgrounds, a school and two churches.

By late 1948, the association had built and had lined up buyers for its 21 Farwest-designed homes. The Tribune reported Dec. 14 that “Some of the 21 home builders have made additional savings through personal labor contributed to their particular houses. The co-op decided that, if any home builder was qualified to do acceptable jobs about the project, he would be credited with the actual cost of these various operations as dictated by work on houses completed by co-op paid labor. As a result, most of the homebuilders waterproofed their own basements. Quite a few did their own primer coat painting, a number installed their own insulation, a few did their own plasterboard or sheetrock work.”

By this time, the development was receiving some national attention, which should have helped to spur sales. The winter-spring edition of Small Home magazine, which came out in late 1948, had a six-page “picture story” about the development. The magazine called the project “the first successful large-scale cooperative homebuilding venture, and certainly one of the most ambitious to date.”

Lauding the late Ken Simons and the veterans organizations’ efforts to address the housing shortage here, the magazine wrote:

“Probably no section of the country needs new homes as much as the Dakotas. Several years of lush wheat and flax harvests and promised completion of the huge Garrison dam which will bring flood control, water for irrigation and industry, and cheap electric power to the whole area have created a large population influx. Bismarck expects to double its population by 1962.”

The magazine story went on:

“Several factors, based on sound planning and broad vision, are responsible for completion of the first 21 homes at Bismarck and development of a project that will ultimately include 312 single family dwellings, a school and shopping center.”

Here’s an important excerpt from the story:

“The veterans’ planning committee wisely bought up low-cost pasture land at the edge of town, brilliantly planned it as a beautiful safe residential community and offered building sites for sale at less than half the cost of smaller building lots in Bismarck.

“To realize maximum savings, the architectural committee selected standardized building plans which could be most economically built by specially trained labor. To avoid monotony of appearance the committee chose designs so flexible that nearly all the homes on Bismarck’s new Highland Acres development appear to be individually planned.”

Strict zoning is one of the notable features of the development, the article said.

“Although the restrictions are comprehensive, none of them invade individual privacy, but are aimed at preventing the deterioration of all property through the neglect, indifference, carelessness or greed of any individual owner. The aim of all this, obviously, is to avoid the hodge-podge of shacks, cellars apartments and tents that can mar community appearance and lower property values where there are no zoning controls.

Shortly before Christmas 1948, as the addition’s first residents were completing moves into their homes, they received letters from the Bank of North Dakota firming up the bank’s commitment. One such letter, to Roy Shimer, who was living in his home at 906 Crescent Lane, informed him that the FHA had agreed to insure his $9,200 loan from the Bank of North Dakota and that his annual charge for the insurance would be $45.48. The bank also confirmed that interest on the 25-year, $9,200 loan would be 3.75 percent, and his monthly mortgage payments would be $47.38.

Imagine that. The Shimers had their own home, on Crescent Lane, one of the prettiest streets in Bismarck (go there today and take a look), thanks to a cooperative formed by veterans, who built the house and then sold it to them, with a loan from the Bank of North Dakota, guaranteed by the United States government, on which the monthly payment was less than $50. The dream had come true.

According to some research done by the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and a search of records at Bismarck’s City Hall, the 21 homes contracted for and built by the association were all located on either South Highland Acres Road or Crescent Lane. They were at 1100, 1118, 1119, 1120, 1123, 1131, 1134, 1139, 1144, 1145, and 1211 South Highland Acres Road, and 822, 902, 903, 906, 907, 910, 911,  915, and 919 Crescent Lane, and a house at the corner of Midway Drive and South Highland Acres Road whose address was 729 Midway Drive. All thoe original homes remain in place today, although there is currently no house with the address 919 Crescent Lane, but city records show the house at 917 Crescent Lane was completed in 1949, so it is likely that house number was changed from 919 to 917 at some time. Three additional houses at 1127, 1130 and 1134 South Highland Acres road were also completed in early 1949.

A drive down South Highland Acres Road and Crescent Lane today will reveal the similarities in construction, but enough difference in design, to ensure that the neighborhood did not look like strings of row houses that you might find in other places which responded to the post-war housing crisis.

Lillian and I live on Arthur Drive, and the houses behind ours, whose lots back up against ours, are 915 and 917 Crescent Lane. Between our lots is a utility easement where Montana Dakota Utilities runs its power lines. As is the case in most of Highland Acres, the power lines run down the center of the blocks, behind the houses, instead of along the streets, and are pretty much hidden by trees, making the area seem less cluttered.

The dream of the veterans was to put sidewalks down the middle of the block, between the houses, serving the homes on each side, but it likely proved too costly. Today, there are curbside sidewalks on some blocks, but most do not have them. The lawns, trees, flowers and shrubs and some pretty nice landscaping, are what the founders of Highland Acres envisioned in those original restrictive covenants, which still remain in place.

But even though their dream of hidden sidewalks for residents to enjoy with privacy and efficiency did not come to fruition, they did the next best thing. Instead of sidewalks, they put the power lines back there. Take a drive, or a walk, through Highland Acres, and as you go down the long, long streets, look up, and ahead, and what you won’t see are power lines running along the streets. The streets are wide enough for parking on both sides — necessary because most homes have single-car garages — and there’s a sense of openness, and a lack of roadside and overhead clutter. Instead of power lines running from the street to the front of homes in Highland Acres, the power lines run from utility easement through back yards to the homes.

You won’t find that in the rest of the city. The minute you drive east on Avenue C and exit Highland Acres — there are only a couple ways in and out — your view is cluttered with long lines of power poles and overhead power lines alongside the street, and that’s the case in much of the rest of the city as well. But not in Highland Acres. The founders did their job well.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The History of Highland Acres, Part 2

FINDING A NAME: HOW WE BECAME HIGHLAND ACRES

The new development needed a name. Bismarck Tribune editor Ken Simons wrote a story for his paper announcing a contest would be held to name the subdivision and the streets within it. Entries were to be submitted to the committee, with an entry deadline of Aug. 12, 1946.

On Aug.t 22, the contest committee, chaired by automobile dealer Robert McCarney (anybody recognize that name?), announced its winners. The name chosen was Highland Acres, an entry submitted by Mrs. Henry B. Golden (the newspaper doesn’t tell us her first name — standard practice in those days — try THAT today), who claimed the $25 first prize — and who later donated it back to the veterans group.

By this time, the cooperative had agreed with Simons’ vision for the development and decided, with the city in agreement, that the subdivision would not be laid out in a grid like the rest of the city but would follow the natural features of the land, with long streets and large blocks to reduce paving and utility costs, and sidewalks, if there were to be any — take note, Bismarck City Commission — placed down the middle of the blocks, behind the houses, serving the homes on either side of them. And the resulting street names would not have to adhere to the city’s numbering and lettering structure.

So street names were also added to the naming contest, and the committee chose the word “Drive,” preceded by 164th Infantry, Riverview, Parkview, Crescent, Midway, Longview, Victory, and Pioneer — some with war references, others with “the lay of the land.” Parkview, Crescent, Victory, Pioneer and Midway were eventually used and survive to this day.

Meanwhile, lots of paperwork needed to be completed before actual construction began. The association had incorporated itself with a projected value of $1.5 million — no small dreamers. It retained counsel, Bismarck attorney and returning World War II veteran Archie McGray and began drafting by-laws.

The final draft was 10 pages and authorized the association to acquire land, build homes, issue shares of stock, borrow money, issue securities, provide financing for sidewalks, utilities and sewers, lend money to members, pay dividends and to elect a board of directors and officers to conduct business on behalf of the member-stockholders.

BUYING THE LAND

By December 1946, the association exercised its option to purchase the Jaskowiak and Keating land and made a down payment of $5,000 on an $18,000 agreement. The group also needed to pay for a survey of the property, drawing a plat, clearing the title and begin adding utilities, an investment of another $7,000. So total startup costs were $25,000. That meant the co-op needed 125 members — a total almost already achieved — with an investment of $200 each.

The association had acquired what it called “one of the most desirable tracts of land within the city limits of Bismarck, comprised of approximately 125 acres of land offering almost all conceivable types of building sites.”

Hopes were high that 1947 would be the year that returning veterans would own their own homes. The next step was getting actual commitments from the members to purchase a lot and build a home. Editor Simons drafted a prospectus to be distributed to the members. It began:

The 108 original contributing members joined in forming the association for the purposes of achieving, as a group, the following ends which they could not achieve by independent action as individuals:

1. To secure new homes at a saving through large-scale purchasing of materials and large-scale construction of houses.

2. To secure advantages in rates and other terms of financing through group negotiation.

3. To secure adequate building lots at lower cost than available generally in the city by acquiring undeveloped land in a block.

4. To secure improved conditions for family living by designing the land to minimize traffic, to insure privacy, and to provide convenient and protected recreation areas, especially for children.

5. To secure any other significant advantages relating to the home and the community that might be accomplished through cooperative planning and execution.

“Generally,” the prospectus read, “the tract, known as Highland Acres, lies between the Mundy estate and the Municipal Country Club and Golf Course on the east and Fraine Barracks Military Installation and other public land on the west. Part of the land lying to the north is owned and controlled by the Bismarck City Park Board and the remainder is privately owned and not presently developed as a residential area. The southern boundary of most of the area lies about one block north of a line extended westward from Avenue ‘C.’ Land lying to the south will eventually be developed according to a plan harmonious with that of the association.

“Main access to the property is from the west end of Avenue ‘C,’ a street slated, according to the plans of the City Planning Commission, to become a main thoroughfare which will provide easy access to the downtown and other areas of the city.

“Drives within the area follow the contours of the land in sweeping curves and straightaways and, with the lots and blocks, have been designed to make the most of the natural advantages of the terrain itself, the view of the river to the south and the recreational and scenic character of most of the adjacent lands.”

The prospectus ran to seven pages, single spaced, and concluded with a dream for a unique housing area, not wedded to traditional city layout but following the natural features of the land. Simons went to considerable effort to make his case for this kind of development:

“Highland Acres is planned, from raw land to finished houses, to provide comfortable housing in an employable community at minimum cost. To achieve these ends, it has broken cleanly from sterile and costly traditions and has returned to the basic considerations which make for wholesome and economical family and community life. Because of this approach its design provides greater utility and greater comfort, more beauty and more convenience—and at less cost.”

To make his point, Simons drew up some comparisons.

ORIGINS OF THE OLD TRADITIONS: Alleys in residential areas were highly essential in horse and buggy days when barns, wood sheds, tool shed and other out-buildings, attendant refuse and heavy deliveries of ice, wood, and coal were kept as far as possible from the house for social, visual and olfactory reasons.

MODERN FACTS AND PRACTICES: Systematic mechanical rubbish disposal, street entrances to utility room — garages, modern heating and refrigeration and frequent light deliveries eliminate the need for the costly and unsightly nuisance of alleys.

ORIGINS OF THE OLD TRADITIONS: Sidewalks completely circled each city block when pedestrians held their noses, looked discreetly ahead, and “took the long way home” around the block to avoid the condition that made alleys a necessary evil.

MODERN FACTS AND PRACTICES: Removal of barns, sheds, refuse heaps and attendant alleys permits foot traffic “as the crow flies” down the center line of blocks on one economical main walk per block in place of a costly four.

ORIGINS OF THE OLD TRADITIONS: Street Curbs kept wagons in the street, wheel ruts from the grass, and the butcher’s horse away from sidewalks when this one-horse-powered motor “fueled up” on boulevard grass.

MODERN FACTS AND PRACTICES: Horses are no longer a notable threat to boulevard, grass or pedestrian traffic and curbs are worth their cost only where needed for soil retention and storm water run-off.

ORIGINS OF THE OLD TRADITIONS: Boulevard strips gave pedestrians added protection from danger to life and limb and from other indelicate hazards that were part and parcel of the horse drawn traffic era.

MODERN FACTS AND PRACTICES: With walks routed, park-wise, between residential lawns and gardens along the center of the blocks, front lawns stretch unbroken from the latch-string to quiet driveway streets.

With a flair, Simons concluded: “Most of the old traditions can be traced to three distinct blood lines:

  • “Straight-line Streets, the ungracious off-spring of the surveyor’s transit and section line roads, followed a parallel course with their parent’s path, come hill, come vale, come hell or high water, as if duty and penance bound, though obviously their parentage was not of their choosing.
  • “Checkerboard blocks were all the favored progeny of the same surveyor’s transit mated to the square section or quarter-section, angular and straight-lined, with little to recommend them, they were accepted and used simply as convenient  and as saving of time and effort.
  • “Coffin-box lots, third generation and the natural children of the naturally wedded square block and straight street, had little to recommend them except that one was the same as another, dull and uninteresting, but capable of being filled with houses and sheds, barns, privies and refuse.

Simons concluded: “Wooed less brusquely and with more regard for nature’s contours, the land gives rise to gently curving and sloping drives; patience and respect are rewarded by this more pleasing progeny which demands less in expense and maintenance while providing greater satisfaction.”

The prospectus was distributed widely, not just to veterans and members of the newly-formed co-op but to anyone in Bismarck interested in building a house in the new subdivision.

One of those families that received the prospectus, along with a short questionnaire “to obtain information which will assist in effectively organizing your cooperative and in locating, planning, and constructing your home with a minimum of delay and with a maximum of results” was that of Mr. and Mrs. George Haugarth of Mandan. George was an employee of Deluxe Cleaners in Bismarck and was looking for housing for himself and his wife and their six children, ranging in age from 5 months to 8 years old. They sent a short letter with their questionnaire:

“We live in three very small rooms. No running water. Outside pump and outside toilet. Washtub for baths. There is no city gas, so we use bottle gas for cooking and oil heater for heat. We live in the flood district in Syndicate (south side) in Mandan. We were forced out this spring for a week due to the flood. Also if we were to make the change for a home in Bismarck it would be a saving on meals and my gas bill driving to and from Bismarck.

“We plan on applying what we can get for this place to one there if need be. We own our furniture and haven’t any debts excepting our living expenses. I have had three years Army training. Sincerely, Mr. and Mrs. George Haugarth”

That may have been the situation with many of the veterans who were looking to become co-op members and realize their dream of owning a good home. But it was also likely the dreary financial situation of prospective members and home builders, which would lead to financial difficulties as work on the development progressed.

Next: Wallace Stegner weighs in; The sales pitch; Closing the deal.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The History of Highland Acres, Part 1

 HIGHLAND ACRES AND THE BISMARCK VETERANS HOMEOWNERS COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION — PRODUCTS OF A PERFECT STORM

Highland Acres Addition to the city of Bismarck, was a housing subdivision developed cooperatively by a group of returning World War II veterans in the 1940s and 1950s. Its success led to the subsequent development of nearby Highland Acres Second and Third Additions and Torrance and Torrance Hill Additions. Together they make up today’s Highland Acres neighborhood in west Bismarck, a neighborhood of some 400 single-family homes, a school, and two churches.

A “perfect storm” of circumstances, many of them unique to North Dakota, set the stage and opened the curtain for the development of Bismarck’s Highland Acres by the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association, guaranteeing its place in North Dakota’s history.

First, in post-war America, millions of young men returned home, married millions of young women and needed housing. Highland Acres was Bismarck’s response.

Second, the project was launched as a cooperative. The cooperative movement was exceptionally strong in North Dakota, bringing electricity and telephones to rural North Dakota in the form of the North Dakota Rural Electric and rural telephone cooperatives; fuel and other farm supplies through the Farmers Union Oil Company; insurance for homes, farms, vehicles and medical care through the Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Co.; and markets for grain — elevators for farmers to sell their crops through the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association.

Most city dwellers in North Dakota were just one generation removed from the farm, and most had benefited from, or still participated in, local and statewide cooperatives. So it not was not surprising that the response to the housing shortage in Bismarck was the formation of a cooperative to get homes built for returning veterans. While the cooperative structure ultimately failed, it was critical to the launch of the project, which eventually succeeded.

Third, because the project was launched as a cooperative, it caught the attention of another cooperative venture, the North Dakota Central Credit Union. The Central Credit Union was a child of the North Dakota Farmers Union, the ultimate cooperative in the state. The Farmers Union, organized in North Dakota in 1927, grew out of the state’s socialist movement of the early 20th century. By the time of the post-war housing shortage, in addition to its other cooperative business ventures, it had also organized its own lending and savings institutions, in the form of credit unions, organized at the local level but partnered together statewide as the North Dakota Central Credit Union, owned by Farmers Union cooperative members. Credit unions worked by members pooling their savings to provide financing to other cooperative ventures, such as the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association. So the Highland Acres venture had immediate access to credit to begin operations.

Fourth, there was the Bank of North Dakota. Financing individual homes was a critical part of the venture, and that’s where the Bank of North Dakota came in. A product of the Nonpartisan League takeover of North Dakota government for a decade earlier in the 20th century, and still today the nation’s only state-owned bank, it stretched its charter provisions, to provide home mortgages to co-op members, greatly aiding the sale of homes by providing a central clearinghouse for prospective homeowners.

And fifth, the timing of two events unique to North Dakota also played a key role in Highland Acres development. By the time the war ended, plans were already being implemented to begin the state’s largest-ever infrastructure project, construction of the massive Garrison Dam on the Missouri River. Not only did it provide jobs for returning veterans, enabling them to stay in their home state, but it brought a flood of new workers as well, and the promise of economic development for central North Dakota once it was completed. Thus the need for housing.

And the discovery of oil in western North Dakota in the early 1950s brought more new residents, new wealth and two entrepreneurs to North Dakota, names that will still be familiar to many North Dakotans today (well, OK, pretty OLD North Dakotans), who rescued and completed the project as a private venture once the cooperative structure had broken down.

The absence of any one of those factors — a critical need for new housing, a strong cooperative movement, a state-owned bank, the construction of the Garrison Dam and the discovery of oil — might have doomed the project. The existence of all of them guaranteed its success. Here is the story of Highland Acres.

THE DREAM BEGINS

For those committed to keeping preservation in contact with the most significant historical events in the twentieth century United States, the post-World War II suburban landscape will be the defining resource.” — David L. Ames, professor of Urban Affairs and Public Policy and Geography, University of Delaware

If Bismarck had a suburban landscape, it would be Highland Acres, a neighborhood of about 400 homes on the city’s west edge, developed to meet the post-World War II housing shortage that was as critical here as any place in America.

Dr. Ames writes, “The suburban landscapes that developed around American cities after World War II are among the most significant historic resources of the 20th century; they represent the fulfillment of the dream of home ownership and material well-being for a majority of Americans.”

“In them,” Dr. Ames continues, “a distinctive settlement pattern emerged, centered on the single-family house on its individual lot sited within the large-scale, self-contained subdivision with a curvilinear street pattern.”

Such a place was postwar Bismarck, where that dream was fulfilled for many families by the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association.

In 1945, in Bismarck, and across America, a generation that had left its parents’ homes as boys four years earlier to fight a great war began returning home as young men, some to their sweethearts, others with sweethearts on their arms, and they needed places to live.

In Bismarck, the City Commission appointed a group of community leaders, headed by Kenneth W. Simons, the editor of The Bismarck Tribune, to a newly formed Bismarck Municipal Housing Committee, which arranged to bring in trailers for use by returning veterans.

But members of Bismarck’s veterans’ organizations — the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans — felt that veterans were not getting enough say in the fight against the lack of housing, so in early 1946 a Veterans Housing Committee was formed, made up of members of all three groups.

The American Legion put up $200 to the support of the activities of the Veterans Housing Committee, saying they expected to be paid back if an organization was formed to build homes.

Once again, Tribune editor Simons, himself a veteran and active American Legion member, emerged as a leader, using the resources of his newspaper to push the effort forward. The group set as its aim a mass building program, and to get it rolling, Simons printed an advertisement in the newspaper seeking to learn if there was interest in such a homebuilding program. There was.

The Tribune reported more than 150 persons answered the ad, expressing interest in building a house. On the basis of the response, the group decided to get a home building organization started.

Meetings were held. On April 2, 1946, under the headline “LOCAL BUILDING CO-OP FORMED” The Bismarck Tribune reported “More than 150 home-seekers attended a meeting Monday night in the Veterans Club and approved articles of incorporation for a co-operative to be formed for building homes in Bismarck.”

Of note was the word “co-operative.”

Just a week later, on April 10, 1946, the veterans organizations and the city’s Housing Committee formed the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association, and April 27, just over two weeks later, they filed the articles of incorporation with the North Dakota Secretary of State. Things began moving fast.

Initially, 108 persons paid a fee of $100 — not an insignificant sum in 1946 — to become a stockholder in the cooperative. The group elected a 19-member board of directors (whose size the co-op would later come to regret) and set a membership goal of 125. The members were not required to be veterans, but about three-fourths of them were veterans.

From the 19-member board, seven “Division Chiefs” were elected to become, in essence, the management committee of the Association. The seven divisions were Management, Finance, Engineering, Architecture, Materials, Contracts and Community Facilities.

FINDING THE LAND

The first task was to find a tract of land. The organization was large enough that the land would need to be located on the city’s edge. Most people in Bismarck believed that the city’s growth would be north of the Capitol and west toward the Missouri River. The city’s Municipal Country Club Golf Course was on the northwest edge of town, and the group initially contacted the city and asked if they would be interested selling that land to the association and in finding a new location for a golf course and the city’s softball diamonds which sat alongside it. The idea was formally proposed to the Bismarck Park Board at a meeting on April 17, 1946, by editor Simons, on behalf of the newly formed Homeowners Association.

Simons told the group the golf course and softball diamond land was attractive because of its location and terrain — it was at the very edge of the city at that time, in the rolling hills surrounding Jackman Coulee, a deep gully with a running stream at the bottom, which pretty much formed the city’s northern and western boundaries.

“It costs no more to develop the land properly for best residential use than it does to accept the square lot lines we have now,” Simons said. “There is no good reason why even a modest home should not be placed in attractive surroundings. We can, if we want to do so, arrange the land so there will be a community play park at the back of every lot.”

Simons proposed the Park Board use the money from the sale of the land to build a new golf course and softball diamonds. The Park Board demurred, but pointed the association to a parcel just to the west of the golf course, owned by R.H. Keating and the Jaskowiak estate — land through which Jackman Coulee continued its southwesterly course to the Missouri River. Within weeks, the association had taken an option on 80 acres and began the legal process for purchasing it.

It was later able to add another adjacent 50 acres to the parcel, including an area on the north side of their land owned by the Park Board, which it obtained from the Park Board in trade for land along the coulee, which was not fit for residential use and would later become an undeveloped city park, providing a long strip of green space through the middle of the development. The land remains undeveloped today.

With enough members to ensure there would be a large-scale housing project, and with a sizeable bank account generated by the $100 memberships, planning began.

Contractors were contacted and they estimated that considerable cost savings — as much as 30 percent — could be realized if they built a large number of homes in a concentrated area with a few floor plans.

In May, the city was visited by Sam Kaplan, from the Chicago office of the National Housing Agency. His visit began a long association between the co-op and the agency. On May 16, the association’s secretary, C.H. Koch, wrote Kaplan a lengthy letter summarizing the progress the group had made in the short time it had been in existence.

“Everything is still very much in the planning stage,” Koch wrote. “Everyone of us, except our attorney, is working in his spare time. And we are all new at such a thing as this. We feel that if we can make this succeed, which I am certain we will do, we will have helped the housing problem in Bismarck immeasurably. Also we will have helped many people acquire homes of their own who, otherwise, might have a much more difficult time doing so.”

Koch went on to say his group would like assistance in financing, especially with G.I. loans for the veterans, assistance in getting materials (“priorities which will produce the goods, not mere hunting licenses”) and technical information on building.

In June, the association’s Finance Committee sent out its first formal communication with the stockholders, in a letter with a form to be filled out seeking financial information, stating “The information which must be had now is exactly the same as will later be required of the members by the Federal Housing Administration, the Veterans Administration and by the bank or other financing agency before G.I. or other loans can be secured by the members and before home construction can begin. The reasons the information must be had now are these:

  1. You must know how large a loan the Veteran’s Administration or Federal Housing Administration will guarantee or insure for you, in order to determine what price you can afford to pay for a home and how much of that price can be borrowed.
  2. The Architectural Committee must know what price you can and will pay in order to provide plans for the best possible house at the lowest possible cost for the members.
  3. The Finance Committee must know what house you want built, and for what price, how much you can pay in cash and how much you can and will borrow.
  4. The Executive Committee must know these facts before it can “talk turkey” with material supply companies, construction contractors, and money-lending agencies in order to secure the most advantageous arrangements.

In July, D.E. Freeman, chief of the association’s Management Division, flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of the Housing Agency staff and with North Dakota U.S. Sen. Milton Young. Both the agency and Sen. Young provided valuable assistance along the way as the work of the association progressed. The FHA sent its land planner from Chicago to assist the group and approved the Association for FHA insurance before construction began the following year.

In September, the association sent its Finance Division chief, R.W. Hermes, to Dayton, Ohio to meet with a similar group there that was a year or so ahead of the Bismarck effort. Based on what he had learned, and with help from the FHA, the association began preparing contracts for members to sign and start the home ownership process, making provisions for not just those who had down payments available and financing arranged, but also for the possible construction of homes by the association itself to be available on a lease-purchase basis to members who could not make a regular down payment.

Next: Buying the land, choosing a name.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — A War Story

Friends know I enjoy used bookstores. There are many within easy driving distance of our place in Bloomington, Minn.

I recently purchased the above book for $1.50 at a Salvation Army resale outlet near the place that sells me Starbucks Italian Bold coffee.

“What Did You Do In the War, Daddy?” was self-published by Gordon C. Krantz, who like Dorette and me is (or was) a resident of Bloomington, Minn. It is subtitled “The Reminiscences of an Ordinary Draftee in World War II.”

Krantz was a member of the 537th engineering company, involved in combat during 1944 and 1945 after shipping to Europe aboard the passenger liner “Queen Elizabeth.”

The book describes his wartime experiences (as well as a tour of the battlefields he took with his wife many years after the war).

Here’s a brief excerpt, apparently from his diary:

“I don’t expect to come back. In a war you get killed. The ways things are going in Europe, we are in for a grim time. We know how to kill the other guy and he knows how to kill us. I may be alone in this expectation of getting killed, but I don’t think so. We have a song, a parody of the WWI song “over there.” It ends with ‘We’ll be over, we’re going over, and we’re all coming back in wooden underwear.’ Wooden underwear is a pine box.”

The 16.1 million veterans of World War II are rapidly disappearing. Only about 3.4 percent of those who served are still alive.

The book has a warning notice on its title page: “This version is a private publication for family use only — Not for sale.”

If my calculation is correct, Krantz would be 93 years old. Not impossible, of course.

But given the fact his request that the book not be sold was ultimately ignored (recall that I bought it used at the resale store), Krantz may have crossed to the other side.

Dead or alive, I salute you.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — My Father, My Hero

The communities of Bowman County, North Dakota, hold a gathering at the Bowman High School every year celebrating Veterans Day. This year, they chose to honor my father, Garland Crook, who is now 93. We traveled there Thursday. Sadly, he was not feeling strong enough to attend. He would have seen many of his buddies there. In fact, one even brought his grandson there from the Black Hills in the hopes that he would get to meet my father.

My husband and I have been to many Veterans Day programs, but I can say without reservation that this was the finest. The walls of the school were decorated with student art focused on veterans. All of the students attended, as do many members of the community, and the young students all listened so respectfully. Students send handwritten invitations to area veterans and serve a delicious turkey dinner after the program to all the honored guests.

My sister and brother-in-law made the drive with us on a cold and sunny day, and we visited with many old friends and neighbors who live in the surrounding area.

My father, pictured above on the right at a Bismarck Veterans Day Observance, held the following offices in veterans’ service organizations:

  • American Legion, Rhame, N.D. Post 188 Commander. 
  • American Legion, North Dakota District 8 Commander.
  • American Legion, North Dakota Western Region Vice Commander.
  • American Legion, North Dakota Department Vice Commander.
  • North Dakota VFW Special Aide-de-Camp.
  • National VFW Deputy Chief of Staff.
  • 40 et 8 Chief de Train, North Dakota .
  • 40 et 8 Grand Chef de Gare, North Dakota.
  • 40 et 8 Cheminot, North Dakota.
  • 40 et 8 Sous Director Membership, National.
  • 40 et 8 Sous Chef de Cheminot de Fer, National.
  • 40 et 8 Aide-de-Camp, National

Below is the text of my speech and here is video shot by my husband (trained by the U.S. Navy as a photographer and videographer, thank you!).

Bowman Public School and all, thank you ever so much. We so enjoyed the day and are very grateful that you honored our family hero at this special community event.

Nov. 9, 2017

Bowman School

First of all, thank you to the community of Bowman and the school for honoring my father today on this occasion, in observance of Veterans Day.  It is my privilege to represent my father and my family and to give you a brief overview of his service to his country.

On the 6th of June, in 1944, the day of the landing of the Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy, France, one of the pivotal days of World War II, my father was just 19 years old, not much older than many of you in the audience. Not so many months before that, he was a just a boy, growing up in Mississippi. He helped his father in the fields and fished when he could. He learned to sing at the nearby Friendship Church and attended school at French Camp Academy, riding his bike or catching a ride home on weekends. Sometimes his aunt and uncle would pick him up on their way to Kosciusko, the nearest city with a theater, for a rare night at the movies. He knew the day he heard the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor that he would soon answer the call of duty and serve his country and, not long after that, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was so young that his mother had to sign off on his enlistment. He took a train to the East Coast and after boot camp, the ship the Queen Elizabeth (which was converted from luxury liner to troop transport ship), sailing to England. Bear in mind this is when the Atlantic Ocean was crawling with enemy submarines and the ship traveled for four days and night UNESCORTED. In England, he experienced the famous Blitz bombing.

In World War II, a few weeks after the landing in Normandy (yes, he was on the beach on that bloody day), he was wounded, somewhere in the hedgerows of rural France, and after he recovered, he was assigned to drive for Gen. (John H.C.) Lee. His subsequent adventures included Christmas dinner in France with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and attending the funeral of Gen. (George) Patton, in Germany, with Gen. Lee, who was in charge of the arrangements.

After the war ended, he came home, completed high school and attended the University of Kentucky, but he returned to the Army to serve in the Korean Conflict. In the course of these years, this young man from Mississippi was in London, Paris, Berlin and Seoul.

One of his many stories included the time when he and a buddy got off-track when driving a truck somewhere in Korea and realized their predicament when they saw that they were surrounded by Chinese and North Korean soldiers. Somehow they got back to safety, and he came home again. His service in the Army continued through the Vietnam War, and he retired as a sergeant first class after more than 20 years of service. He was a drill sergeant and had various assignments included security services. His military decorations include The Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.

I would like to call your attention to a program that aired on Prairie Public TV on Thursday night, a two-hour documentary called “Prairie Memories: the Vietnam War Years,” which is interviews of North Dakotans’ memories from that time. You will learn much about fellow North Dakota veterans if you watch this. The interviews are slowly being added to the Digital Horizons website at http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org/digital/collection/p16921coll14.

As you will see in the printed program, after my father’s retirement, he was very active in many veterans’ service organizations, holding many offices, continuing to serve his country. One of my vivid memories of my father is how he loved to pore over his copies of Popular Mechanics magazine. A true Army man, he could build and fix most anything, talents that came in very handy when he was ranching in Slope County, north of Rhame, after his military retirement. He also loved to garden and to camp.

Most of all, he loves to fish. He really loves to fish. He has fished all over the United States, and one of his happiest moments was when he received the N.D. Walleye Whopper Award. Needless to say, he got that fish mounted.

I want to also acknowledge today the service of other members of my immediate family: My older brother served in the U.S. Army, my younger brother served a career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a senior chief, and my husband and brother-in-law (here today, please stand) were in the U.S. Navy.  I guess you can see why we children were raised to always say “Yes Sir!” and “No Ma’am.”

To those of you young folks listening to this today, I urge you to talk to the veterans who are in your life and listen to their stories, acknowledge that you understand the sacrifices they made, all the times they missed holidays with their families and the dangers they faced. As you are making plans for your future, consider wearing the uniform of your country.

Without a doubt, my father is a true patriot, and we as a family are very proud of him. Thank you for recognizing his service. I hope you find him as inspiring as we have. He is truly an American hero.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 27 And Lunch With Bob

“Do everything with a mind that lets go. Do not expect any praise or reward.” — Ajahn Chah

My father is spending the day with us and while I deadheaded the daylilies, he contentedly read the morning paper on the back patio. Can you tell I come from a line of readers?

My delight this morning was in finding a new blossom on “Love in the Library” daylily. I’m a librarian, so, naturally, I was willing to pay a wee bit of a stiff price for this at the annual auction a few years ago. I didn’t care what it looked like, although I must say it is a lovely blush pink, isn’t it?

A few more lovelies for good measure.

Earlier in the spring, I dropped some zinnia seeds in here and there to fill gaps.

The first ruby-throated hummingbird showed up last night on the hanging fuschia. They also like to feed on my red bee balm.

We had lunch today with our friend, Bob Martinson, and a special lunch it was.  Bob wanted to meet my Daddy.

Big-hearted Bob and his wife, Jodi, had spent Memorial Day in Normandy, France, and they brought home some incredibly thoughtful mementos for my father, who was on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Daddy told him some of his World War II stories and signed the framed photograph that Bob had purchased (one for his wall and one for Daddy’s), the iconic Robert Capra image of D-Day.

I confess that some of us were a little choked up when Bob presented Daddy with a vase filled with sand that he had collected at Omaha Beach.  How he got this home in his luggage is beyond me.

Bob and Daddy and Jim belong to the fellowship of service members, and it is good to pause and remember the incredible sacrifices they have made so we can all be free.

What friends we are blessed with. From the bottom of my heart, Bob and Jodi, I thank you. Now let’s eat some tomatoes!