Memory Lane: Featuring Don Schade

Memory Lane

Featuring: Don Schade

By Shiloh Appel

Born in 1922 near Cottonwood Lake to George and Ella Schade, Redfield area native, Don Schade, remembers summer days growing up on the back of his horse, Jack, from the age of five or six, savoring the taste of homemade ice cream, roller skating on the Cottonwood Lake dance floor and playing baseball on weekends.

"We used to play baseball on Sundays. We would play anywhere.There used to be a ball field out back of where Rex Binger lives now," said Schade."The Eidsness family owned the place. They would make homemade ice cream and sell it to people at the ball field."

Schade said he would also ride his horse to the Wayside Inn at Cottonwood Lake, (owned by the Lovold family), for ice cream.

"He would have an ice cream cone and the ice cream melted and ran down his arm and ran down his horse. He licked the ice cream off his arm, but he didn't lick the horse,'" said Schade's former neighbor, Wilma Nelson, with a chuckle, quoting her sister, Arlene Haug.

Schade remembers those days with a smile. However, Schade's childhood was not all fun and games. Hard work and hard times were just as much a part of his childhood as anyone else's growing up in the 1930's. At the age of seven or eight years old, Schade fell off of his horse and broke his leg. He was bed ridden for months with his leg strapped up. Nonetheless, he said that experience didn't stop him from getting right back on his horse again once he was all healed up.

As for work, it wasn't an easy task to make a dollar in those days.

"We worked for eight to ten hours for a dollar a day as kids," said Schade."We would fix fence and stuff like that for neighbors. Hauling bundles you would get only $2.50 a day."

Schade also remembers helping his grandfather, Albert Schade, harvest ice from Cottonwood Lake during the winter.

"My grandfather was a fisherman in Germany. When he came here, he would get the ice off of Cottonwood Lake and they would cut it by hand with a big saw. Then they would put the fresh fish on it to keep them cold. He would go around to people's houses and sell the fish," said Schade."He would harvest and sell Northerns and Buffalo fish. There were no Walleye, but there were lots of Bullheads."

It being a time before freezers and refrigerators were invented, ice houses were the saving grace of summer. Schade would help his grandfather shoe the horses with special ice shoes to go out on the ice and harvest blocks of ice 36 inches long and sometimes 36 inches thick as well. The ice would be stored in the family ice house and layered with straw to keep it insulated from the summer heat. According to Schade, the ice would last all summer until August.

"It was a a lot of work. We would haul the ice with a bobsled [attached to] horses. Must of had three or four fellows sawing all of the time," said Schade.

Schade said it took his grandfather all day to go 20 miles selling fish with a team and a wagon.

Meanwhile, when Don was about eight years old, in 1930, his father, George, contracted Polio. Schade remembers that time clearly.

"At that time, he was quarantined for a couple of months," said Schade, through tears. "He had it for four or five years." However, Schade's father was one of the few who didn't die of Polio after contracting the sickness. A neighbor of the Schade's visited faithfully each day and massaged George's legs with olive oil.

"That is what saved his life," said Schade's daughter, Jill Alkire.

Also in 1930, Schade recalls his house burning down while the family was having a picnic. "The only thing we had was clothes and silverware," said Schade. "We moved in to a little old shack."

Schade was the only boy in the family with two older sisters and two younger sisters, and all of the siblings did their part to keep the family going. Schade said that they all milked their six or seven cows each morning and cared for the hogs, sheep and horses. In the later '30's, Schade even went to Sleepy Eye, Minnesota to find work, as the Great Depression had hit hard and left jobs scarce. Schade was about 17 or 18 years old when he joined his brother and a friend and went to Sleepy Eye. The boys were there for two weeks and worked long days picking peas. Schade said they slept on the ground each night because they did not have the money to afford a place to stay.

"We got four or five dollars a day," said Schade.

The banks in Redfield closed without notice in 1928.

"Anybody who had any money in there, they never got it back," said Schade. "My parents had $400 or $500 in the bank at that time."

In 1933 and 1934, Schade said locals sold cattle to the government for $20 a head. The cattle were driven into a pit and shot. Schade said farmers and ranchers did not have the funds to feed their cattle, so the cattle would starve to death if not sold to the government. Schade also remembers when Cottonwood Lake went dry in the '30's and farmers cut hay out on the dry lake bed.

When the Great Depression finally came to an end, all kinds of constructive changes began happening. Schade said one of the biggest changes he has seen in his lifetime is when farmers "started going from horses to tractors."

"We went to tractors in 1940. The tractors never got tired, but the horses got tired. You had to take water out to the fields for the horses," said Schade. Another thing that amazed Schade was the new wells."These artesian wells were also wonderful things when they came in. They were 1,500 feet deep. They would never freeze up," said Schade.

In the early '40's Schade also met a young school teacher, Inez Bush, from Saint Lawrence, who was boarding with a neighbor. Needless to say, Don and Inez fell in love. They were soon married in 1944 in the Methodist parsonage in Redfield.

"When we got married, Inez's brother and sister were the only ones there. We didn't have anybody else. We just went ahead and got married," said Schade.

Schade said that after they were married, he and Inez started farming two miles East of Roger Appel's farm. They were there for two years before moving to the farmstead where Schade's son, George, farms now. The Schades had three children, Dick, Jill and George, and made a lot of memories together. Don also served on the Plato Township, ASC and Spink County Co-op, as well as the former Wheat Growers Board.

In later years, Don and Inez enjoyed traveling across the country, visiting all but two of the 50 states in America. They moved to Redfield from the farm, but never lost their love for the country and the changing seasons.

"He and mom loved to travel, and they loved to go for a ride. They loved to watch the crops and they observed so many things.They went for a drive out to the country almost every day when they were in town, right up to the end," said Schade's daughter, Jill Alkire.

Inez and Don Schade enjoyed 72 years together before Inez passed away. 

Today, Don Schade still enjoys  going on rides in the country three times a week with his daughter during the summer. He also enjoys reading the local newspapers and county papers, watching bull riding and basketball and visiting with old friends.

As for advice to the youth of today, Schade says, "Don't give up hard work."

To visit with Don Schade, stop in at the Eastern Star Home in Redfield.

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