Family History of Frederick Grant Duerr
Somehow I inherited a large box of photographs and records of my paternal and maternal ancestors. My offspring seem to show little or no interest in people whom they did not know. That may be why I inherited this box of family memorabilia in the first place. Yet, to me, they are reminisces of people I did know and/or heard much discussion about from my parents and their siblings.
So, to amuse myself, and in the hope that future family members my find this material interesting, I am publishing this sketchy and hopefully not too inaccurate family history. I’ll start with my father and go from there.
Paternal Grand Father
My father’s full name was Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Johann Duerr. He went to grade school in Turtle Lake, learned English, and changed his name to Fred C Duerr. The middle initial never had a period after it. My father always said that it was just a device to separate him from any other people named Fred Duerr. I never did fully understand that.
German (Bavarian dialect and Hoch Deutsch), was my father's first language. John Duerr took my father out of school at the start of the third grade because, “I need him to work on the farm”. That was the extent of my father’s education, although his mastery of the English Language was better than my own. He learned perfect colloquial and educated English without a trace of any accent. He also trained himself in mathematics and was well read. It was my father who taught me the joys of reading.
Fred C Duerr's younger brother Bill married a French-Canadian lady (Hermine). They had two children, Bob and Elizabeth. Bill was a baker, and I have fond memories going to his bakery and eating donuts. He would offer me a doughnut and always ask me to save him the hole. His son Bob was in the US Navy for one hitch, and then became quite a well known Zoo - ologist. He was the curator of reptiles at the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a well known TV personality in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Elizabeth (Betty) became a Nun and was a school teacher most of her working life. I still communicate with them on occasion and it is 2011 as I write this.
Fred C Duerr's other younger brother Carl married a lady (Klara) sp, and had two children, Richard and Diane. Carl was a barber, and it hurt when he cut my hair.
The three brothers, Fred, Carl, and Bill, liked to fish together. They would love to tell the story about when the poorly built row boat that they were in started to sink. They decided that one of them had to get out to lighted the boat. My dad and Carl decided that the youngest (Bill) was elected to get out. Bill was terrified since he couldn't swim, and cried when his older brothers made him climb out of the boat. Bill found out that the water was only 3 feet deep, and he waded ashore. His older brothers laughed and cheered him on. Bill never quite forgave them. As years went on the story got wilder and wilder, and everyone would reminisce about the good times they had as children.
MotherMy mother's maiden name was Louise Esther Rosenbush. She was born in Amery, Wisconsin in 1900. Her father's name was Grant Rosenbush, thus my full name Frederick Grant Duerr. Grant's father William fought with a Wisconsin group during the Civil War. My mother had two older brothers, Leslie and Otis. They moved to Alaska in 1900. They wanted to become millionairs, but settled in Seldovia, AK and became fishermen instead.
Lesllie homesteaded on a small island (Yukon Island) between Homer, AK and Seldovia. He retired out of the US Coast Guard. He married into the Seldovia Village Indian Tribe, and someone once jokingly told me that I was a first cousin to about one fourth of the present tribe.
My mother's mother died during childbirth when my mother was born. Her name was Lulu Higby of Falls Church, WA.
I'll write more about my mother's family later.
Frederick Grant Duerr's Siblings
My parents had 4 children, Marilyn, Bobetta, Lois, and Frederick (me!). Bobetta died from Erysipelas at age 2. I was born in 1935. Marilyn was 12 years older and Lois was 7 hears older I at the time.
Lois, Marilyn, & Frederick Louise, Frederick, Marilyn, Lois, & Fred
Marilyn was a baby sitter for me much of the time. She resented it. Once her boyfriend came over to the house while Marilyn supposedly taking care of me. The boyfriend gave me a quarter and suggested that I go to the local movie theatre. It turned out to be a double feature and, of course, I stayed for the second show. About half way through the second show, my mother extracted me from the theatre, and really chastised my sister. Another time and another boyfriend, my sister and friend drove to the Como Zoo, and I got to see all the animals by myself in the dark.
Marilyn married Clarence Gustafson. They had five children, Charles, Kathleen, Robin, Don Allen, and Thomas. Clarence and Marilyn lived much of their married life in an apartment above my father's General Store. Their kids were born there and spent much of their early life there. I was very fond of Clarence. He, my dad, and I had many good times fishing together on Sunday afternoons.
Charles: I was not too much older than Charles, and he seemed to me to be more a little brother than nephew.
To Lois, I was just her baby brother. Lois was 5 feet tall and I am nearly 6 feet tall. All her life she referred to me as her little brother.
Lois married Everett Anderson. Together they had four children, Everett Frederick (Rick), John, Merry Lyn, and Louise (Louie). Lois' husband, Everett, was a friend of two of my mother's half-brothers. Their names were Benjamin Ben)and Douglas Rosenbush. I'll write more about my mother's side of the family a bit later.
Everett, Ben, and Douglas, all three, decided to enlist into the United States Armed Forces. This was shortly after the outbreak of World War II, and many young men at the time enlisted. Ben went into the Army and Douglas went into the Navy. Everett was declared unfit for military service as he was partially blind in one eye. He did serve in the Merchant Marine for the duration of the war. In typical bureaucratic action, after World War II was over, and the standards for physical condition were lowered, the Washington County, Minnesota, declared that Everett was a draft dodger and drafted him into the Army. Everett served two years in Japan as part of the Army of Occupation.
Lois Marie Duerr, age 19
A Childhood Memory
I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1935. While living in St. Paul, one of my father's various professions was that of a tavern owner (7 years from just before I was born.) At that time, Minnesota had several different classes of booze licenses. One of them only allowed "beer joints" to serve 3.2 beer; that is, beer with only 3.2% alcohol content. The legislators considered 3.2 beer as non-intoxicating. Politicians have always been dumb.
Anyway, my dad was treasurer of the Twin-Cities 3.2 Beer Retailers Association. One of his jobs was to go to each bar on a monthly basis, collect dues, and give the operator a red seal to place on their certificate (placed conspicuously near the cash register (or "till"). He dressed well, wore a big felt hat, and smoked a big cigar. He also attended the occasional meetings of the Association.
Frequently my dad would take me with him on these excursions, and I loved it. I was always treated like a little prince on these occasions. One time we went into a bar named "Seashore's." Mr. Seashore was the president of the association. As dad went into the bar, with me at his heels, the bar-tender said, "Hi, Fred, How are ? I see you have your 'helper' with you. Have a beer!" My dad rarely drank anything alcoholic. He replied the usual sort of greeting, accepted the beer, took a sip, and walked to the back of the bar, went through a door into the meeting room.
This was the sort of back-of-the-bar room you would see in a movie like "The Sting." As my dad walked through the door, he was greeted and proffered another "beer." Now, with a beer in each hand he surveyed the smoke-filled room. The conference table was surrounded by well-dressed "business-men." At the head of the table was Seashore, himself, with his secretary (wife?) seated at his left side. At least she was introduced to me as Mrs. Seashore. It was the middle of the afternoon, but she was decked out in a formal backless black evening gown complete with flashy rhinestone necklace. Even at my young age, I though that she was overdressed for a mid-day business meeting. I've seen this sort of scene several other times in various "B" gangster movies.
As the meeting was about to commence, dad stood behind and a little to the left of Mrs. Seashore. He raised the bottle of beer in his left hand to his lips, and casually poured cold beer from the bottle in his right hand down Mrs. Seashore's naked back. She let out a scream, a few choice cuss-words and leaped to her feet. My dad started to apologize, of course. She said, "God-Damn you, Fred Duerr, I know you did that on purpose!"
Everybody else in the room thought it was funny and laughed, even Mr. Seashore. My dad was very contrite and apologetic. He even offered to help dry her off. She repeated, "Fred Duerr, I know you did that on purpose! And you, you smooth-talking son-of-a-bitch, don't try to tell me otherwise!"
Funny, I don't remember the rest of it. I brought the episode up a few times at family and/or friend gatherings around our big round-oak dining table. My dad would always smile, profess innocence, explain what happened, and everyone would laugh..
Enough of that.
Below are pictures of my folks when they were young, and not so young.
Another Child-Hood Reminiscence
When I was 8 years old, my parents sold their house and business in St. Paul and moved onto a small (80 acre) farm near Withrow, Minnesota. Withrow consisted of a Sioux Line Railroad Depot, a lumber yard, a tavern, a general store, and about a dozen houses. People joked that the town was named Withrow because one could throw a baseball the width of it.
I never understood why nor asked why they decided to leave the big city and move to the country. They left a large beautiful Victorian house on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. This house had all the modern conveniences such as electricity, central heat, water and sewer. It even had old wall fixtures for gas lighting. We moved onto a farm without electricity, and thus no running water or indoor toilet facilities. All of the farm work had to be done manually or with horses, and the cows were milked by hand.
One advantage the country did have was that you could grow your own meat. World War II was still in progress and much food, including meat, was rationed. People were encouraged to not eat meat at all on Tuesdays and on Fridays. My dad made a little extra income raising hogs. One year he raised and butchered 21 hogs and sold 1/2 hogs to his friends and associates in the City.
Another advantage, at least for me, was that I attended a one-room school. All the grades from 1st through 8th were taught in that one room. This meant that I could listen to the higher grades reciting their assigned reading many times prior to my being promoted to that class. When it was time for my grade to work on material, I had heard it all before. I didn't have to study and spent all my time reading the encyclopedia and various library books. I learned a lot in that one-room grade school.
There is one thing that I learned in a hurry. During World War II, it was not wise to brag about your family background when you were of German extraction. Other kids would look forward to St. Patrick's Day or to Scandinavian foods (Lutefisk and Lefsa), but I learned to emphasize that I was an American. It kept me from getting beat up. My family traditions are still more Scandinavian than German.
Two years after we moved onto the farm, my father started to comment that he had forgotten just how hard farming was. This dissatisfaction came to a crisis one New Year's Eve when my parents and I went to a party at the Withrow Tavern. I mentioned earlier in this blog that Minnesota had certain laws pertaining to the sale of alcoholic beverages. Establishments were required by the State of Minnesota to have a license to sell beer, wines, etc. Beverages with more than a 3.2% alcohol content could be licensed only in an incorporated village or town. Withrow had a population of 54 people and thus was too small to incorporate. This meant that no "hard" liquor could be sold there. It did qualify for a restricted 3.2% beer license.
The Withrow Tavern, commonly called "Norts", occupied the space of a defunct creamery. It was owned and operated by a man named Norton Armstrong. It was the only establishment within an 8-mile radius of Withrow that was licensed to sell even 3.2% beer. That problem did not bother Nort. He sold "hard" liquor by the bottle or by the drink. To all extents and purposes, the Withrow Tavern was an operating full service bar.
It was at this party, then, that my dad started to complain about farming. The man who owned and operated the Withrow General Store sat down with my folks and during general conversation, complained about the store business. Before the evening was over, my dad and the store owner (Pratt) swapped. Pratt took the farm and my dad took the store.
My family and I moved into the store building. This building was a large two story structure with living accommodations in the back and a dance hall occupying the entire second floor. It had electricity and was heated with coal. We still had to use an outhouse which was located behind the store building.
Above is my father and mother in front of the store. Above is my parents behind the counter.
Norton Armstrong was an irascible old coot. He had a temper and he wasn't ashamed to show it upon occasion. Withrow's telephone system was an old fashion "number please" sort of thing. Frequently the telephone lines would be knocked out by inclement weather or farm tractors. And sometimes the operators would just have a bad day. Any of these things would irritate Nort, and one day he just tore the phone off the wall and said that he didn't want phone service anyway.
Between illegal gambling and illegal liquor sales, Nort needed to be able to talk with business associates. Also he needed to be fully informed by the Sheriff (Rueben Granquist) of all impending visits by the Washington County Sheriff's Office. His solution was to have all calls made to my dad's store. Many times my father would tell me to run across the street to the tavern and tell Nort that the Sheriff was coming to see him. After a couple of years of this, he had the telephones reinstalled in his tavern and I lost my part-time job.
My dad remodeled the upstairs into two apartments. I have two older sisters. My oldest sister Marilyn, her husband Clarence Gustafson, and their kids moved into one apartment. My other sister Lois, her husband Everett Anderson, and their kids moved into the other apartment.
The store building had an interesting adjunct. A small outhouse was cantilevered off the second floor. This was arranged so that persons attending a party or dance could use the suspended outhouse directly and wouldn't have to walk down the stairs to use the other outhouse behind the store building. The wooden seat of this second story outhouse connected to a rectangular tube running straight down to the underground septic tank. This made, in fact, a
The other outhouse behind the store building was ordinary. It did have, however, three holes. There was an internal partition so that one side had two holes and the other side one hole. As you might expect, the two hole side was for the women, and the one hole side with trough was for men. I've never fully understood why women seem to want to answer a call of nature in groups.
My family mostly used the two hole side. My recollection of the interior has a wooden apple crate filled with orangefruit wrappers nailed to the right wall as you sat. In those days, fruits such as oranges and apples were wrapped individually. The orangefruit papers, which were colored orange, were used for toilet paper. No one would use the hard, sharp, crinkly Sears Catalog pages unless they had to.
The apples were usually wrapped in blue paper. These made poor toilet paper because the dye was usually water soluble and stained everything. I recall the end paper advertisement on the wooden crate had the brand of a blue goose. I'd get to admire that picture every time I used the outhouse.
Years later I moved to Walla Walla, Washington. This is a border town with Milton-Freewater, Oregon on the Oregon side of the border. I'd shop in Milton-Freewater a lot. I'd go to the fruit processing houses every fall and buy a case or two of apples. To my surprise, I saw in the company office a blue goose advertising paper affixed to the office wall. I never knew that the apples I ate in Minnesota came from this small processing plant. I asked to see the manager and told him that I had a complaint. He was concerned and asked if he could help me. I told him that this blue dye was water soluble and didn't make good toilet paper. Before I could explain that I was referring to a situation from 40 years earlier, he turned his back and told one of his employees to "get rid of him." I thought he would love to hear a 40 year old humorous anecdote.
Back to the outhouse. On the left wall as you sit, was a large metal poster advertising the De LaSalle cream separator. Around the edges of this poster were pictures of different breeds of cattle. I learned how to identify breeds of cattle from this poster.
And lastly, to the left of the poster was an old fashioned photograph of my mother. It was a huge photo in an ornate wood frame and with a convex glass lens. My mother complained about the picture being in the outhouse, so my dad turned it to the wall. My mother was the only one who did not think that was funny.
To finish up my early days reminiscence of life in and around Withrow, Minnesota, let me tell one more outhouse story. Winters in Minnesota are cold. Not as cold as people tend to exaggerate, but never the less, cold. Material deposited in an outhouse freezes. If the outhouse is an older one and is getting full, there is a tendency for this frozen material to make a small pyramid. Occasionally one would have to take a stick of some sort and tip the pyramid over so that the apex of the pyramid would not be so close to your backside.
One time after using the outhouse I noticed that the most recent deposit stood straight up on the pyramid. It sort of looked like the Statue of Liberty. My mother had been complaining that the pyramid was getting kind of high. I though a good trick would be to leave the Statue of Liberty frozen in place and surprise whoever. Well, I forgot that I did that and I wasn't reminded until the next time I sat down in the outhouse. I may be one of the few people on Earth who can truthfully say, "I have been goosed by a schitsickle!"
My First Full-Time Academic Job
In 1961 I was hired to teach and do research at the University of South Dakota at Vermillion, SD. I was hired as a Comparative Physiologist, but my teaching load consisted of General Zoology, Comparative Anatomy of the Vertebrates, Vertebrate Embryology, Cell Physiology, Invertebrate Zoology, and occasionally History of Science. I hadn't finished my Ph.D. dissertation, but assumed that I would have no trouble doing all of the above while raising a family. Ahh! the naievete and energy of the young, and the fatigue of the old!
It was, and is my opinion that comparative anatomy laboratories would be more interesting and more informative if animals, other than the usual domestic cat and fetal pig, were examined. Thus, I had each student prepare a study skeleton from material they themselves collected. I helped by supplying red fox (from bountied animals in the County Sheriff's Office) and various "road-killed" animals. The students could use any vertebrate they wished. Many students made study skeletons out of wild ducks and geese, and farm animals. One student worked at the Rapid City Reptile Garden and made a skeleton out of a 17 foot Green Rock Python.
Another student used the skull of his 4-H Club steer. He also gave me the hide. The raw (not tanned) hide weighed about 80 pounds and was frozen in a large cardboard box. This hide was carefully trimmed and cleaned. It was, after all, his 4-H project and the steer had won a blue-ribbon at the County Fair. I planned to get the hide tanned, and put the box full of hide in the back of my station wagon. I thought I would immediately get the hide tanned, but procrastination entered into my plan. The box of hide stayed in the back of my station wagon throughout the winter.
In early Spring, as the climate warmed up, the hide thawed and started to smell. My family started to complain. Finally it smelled so bad I decided to take it out of my car, put it on the roof of the Medical School Building, salt it down, and let it dry out. I would then ship it to the tannery in Denver, Colorado.
On a warm, sunny, and bright Sunday afternoon, my graduate student, David Emerson, and I went to put the hide on the roof. I opened the back door of the station wagon, picked up the box containing the hide, and just as I got the heavy box outside the car, the cardboard disintegrated and dropped the wet and slippery hide on the street. I grabbed a leg and started to pull the hide over the curb and onto the sidewalk leading to the side door of the medical school. There was still wet snow and ice on the ground and the hide left a bloody red swash on the sidewalk.
I was going to pull the hide up the few steps leading to the entry, down the hall to the elevator and then elevate it up to the roof. By the time I reached the entry of the medical school, the hide was truly leaving a wide and bloody track on the steps. Dave suggested that he get a large piece of cardboard and put the hide on the cardboard to do the necessary dragging without leaving a blood trail. The cardboard worked well and we dragged the hide to the roof where we laid it out and salted it. Satisfied with our endeavors, we had a cup of coffee at a local restaurant and then went our separate ways.
The next morning, I went to school as usual and was met at the door by another of my graduate students, Don Nelson. He suggested that I immediately leave and not come back to the college until the afternoon. I asked why, and he explained.
The janitor came to work about 6 am, saw the blood, alerted the police, and under the assumption that someone was murdered, they closed the entire building while they investigated. They assumed that the victim was killed and carried to the incinerator. When they found the steer hide on the roof, they then assumed that it was from a rustled beef, and impounded the hide. I never saw the hide again. I did get another steer hide and have it on the back of my couch, but that is another story.
No one ever asked me if I knew anything about the hide. No one (police, Medical Department personnel, university officials) ever brought the subject up to me. The Dean of the Medical School did, however, lobby the legislature to get the biology departments out of the Medical School building, and succeeded.
Post Script: Another graduate student of mine (Vic Cvancara) was driving from Yankton, South Dakota to Vermillion, and while following a farm truck loaded with market pigs, noticed that one pig looked life it was going to jump out of the back of the truck. Vic, with a family to support and with an avid curiosity, followed the truck. Sure enough, the pig did jump out and was killed. The trucker never stopped. Vic and a friend stuffed the pig into Vic's car trunk, and drove to a construction site just north of the USD Campus. Vic started the fork-lift at the site, hung the pig on the tines, and butchered the pig. He didn't even offer me any pork.
My First Full-Time Academic Job (cont.)
The Zoology and Botany Departments were located in the extreme northeast wing of the University of South Dakota Medical School complex. My laboratory was in the very extreme portion of the northeast wing. I taught the laboratory portions of comparative anatomy and cell physiology in the laboratory facility. The office of the Dean of the Medical School was about 150 feet west of that.
Teaching and research of the anatomical and/or physiological sort sometimes produces bad and fetid odors. Should these odors leave the laboratory space and waft down the hall towards the Dean's Office, his secretary would take umbrage and complain. Occasionally she would take a bottle of spray deodorant and spray the hallway leading to my lab. She would complain a lot to my students and to her boss, but never said a word to me. So, I didn't pay much attention to her. Perhaps rightly so, she was quite nasty to my students when I wasn't around, and she became known as "The Deanus." The Deanus was somewhat stocky in build and usually wore a black, tightly fitting semi-formal office dress. Picture an officious person overly stuffed in a black dress, and wearing black high heeled shoes.
Our building was heated by a hot water system and each office and lab had a radiator. The radiators were clad in a metal shroud and vents in this shroud could be open or closed to regulate heat entering the room. These metal clad radiators also made good shelves for one to store books, glassware, and occasionally animal parts. They made good shelves for drying chemical solutions and/or animal parts. Remember I taught comparative anatomy.
On one occasion I cleaned the skull of a red fox and had difficulty cleaning the brain material out of the cranial cavity. I placed the skull on the lab radiator to soften the brain tissue up a bit, and promptly forgot about it. The brain liquefied and rotted inside the cranium. A couple of weeks later, a visitor to the lab said, "Oh, look at the nice skull" and picked it up. Of course he turned it upside down, and all the rotten liquefied goo poured out of the hole in the back of the skull and ran down through the radiator vents onto the radiator heat coils. Needless to say, this caused the entire end of the building to blossom with an obnoxious stench. Furthermore, the radiator couldn't be taken apart and cleaned. The stench lasted several days and caused the Deanus to spray the halls with a deodorant several times.
A former student (Dr. David Emerson) was separating proteins using a paper chromatography technique. He used a spray made of ammonium sulfide to color the protein spots. Ammonium sulfide easily gives off the rotten egg smell of Hydrogen sulfide. This kept the building smelling nicely for weeks. This also was driving the Deanus to distraction.
This series of confrontations between the denizens of my lab and the Deanus came to a head one day in the following manner. Across the hall from my lab were two adjacent bathrooms. One was for men and the other was for women. There was a crawl space containing the plumbing pipes, etc. between the two bathrooms. Ventilation vents led from one bathroom, across the crawl space, and then into the other bathroom. A student of mine captured several snakes and kept them in a terrarium in my lab. One night the snakes got out of their confinement, crawled under the lab door, across the hall, into the crawl space between the bathrooms, and then through the vents into both bathrooms. One snake wrapped itself around the base of a toilet in the women's bathroom and stayed there. The Deanus ran into the bathroom, adjusted her underclothes, and sat on the stool. When she looked between her knees she saw the snake and "freaked out!" She ran out of the bathroom while adjusting her underclothing and ran screaming down to her office.
When she settled down, she called the police. To the best of my knowledge the police never came to the building, I was never questioned, and she never used the facilities closest to her office again.