The following interview was conducted with Ruth
Evelyn (Holum) Ward on three consecutive days (October 19-21, 2005) for several
hours each time. She was nearly 97 at the time. In 2007 and 2009, several
more follow-up questions were asked and these were integrated into the interview
Do you remember any movies you have seen?
Yes - silent movies. Ma would give us money for movies and dances. They had
the dances at a big hall in St John (North Dakota). I remember Tom Mix.
My favorite music is Jazz. I never cared much for any singers - just the
Yes - arithmetic and especially spelling. We had spelling contests. I was a
One teacher had a rule that the pupil in the last seat in the row would be a
"monitor" and report any ill behavior from their row. I got my hand
whacked with a ruler by my row monitor once. It hurt so bad. He said I walked on
the floor register, but I DID NOT! The rule was "no standing on the
registers." After he hurt me, the school did not allow the students to be
A boy that lived west of the house took me to a movie. His name was Orville
Engle. He was from Candu, North Dakota. Everything was fine until my sister,
Alice stepped in.
Yes. When I was about ten or twelve, ma sent for a coat. It was real special.
It had a big collar and a chain belt. I looked at the boys and they looked at
me. I was very shapely, with a small waist.
Yes. When we were in Minnesota, we had a dog that would fetch ducks out of
the lake. Its name was "Purley" and it was actually Elmer's dog. We
also had a white barn cat.
Yes. Kids always teased about our accents, and it made us mad and sad, so we
tried real hard to learn English. Ma and pa learned from us kids, and stopped
speaking Norwegian when we moved to North Dakota.
A willow switch.
No. Except for the time with the registers, and he was lying, so - no, I
Yes. Snakes and the dark. My sister, Agnes, made me go outside in the dark
when I was young, and I always had a fear after that.
Yes. I liked it, but the sermons were boring for us kids. I used to tell
Alice that when the songs started, we were almost to the end and we'd leave
soon. When we went to church, we had to learn Catechism. It had Norwegian on one
side and English on the other side. I knew the Lord's Prayer in Norwegian. Kids
always made fun of us, though, so it made us want to learn English faster and
better. William learned his Catechism fast and could go out to play earlier, but
Walter learned slower. Ma had a spare bedroom, and the minister would stay with
us there sometimes.
Milking cows by hand
I got a little perfume carrier that was part of a piece of jewelry, but one
time, when a girl was staying at our house, she stole all of my jewelry, and it
was in there with that.
I learned after I got married. My sister, Alice, bought Beth and Bobby
bicycles, and I learned on those. I would ride REAL FAST over to Lassonde's.
I tried - once.
Irene Thorson and Berniece Coglin. Berniece was younger than me, and SO
smart. I always wished I was that smart.
Yes. Ma gave me money for the carnival.
I was too scared.
Broccoli and very sour Sourdough bread.
Alan learned everything on his own. He had a difficult time in school. He
taught himself everything. He wanted to build a log house, and I saw the drawing
of it one time. I know he could have done that.
(She thought forever on this one, and believed he had no good traits). She
finally got an impish grin on her face and said: "He was good to
Yes. I went with Agnes to a circus - maybe it was in Rolla.
Being with my family and eating good food.
John Black, from "Days of Our Lives"
Live with Lyle Ward. (She broke out in laughter)
Being outside - with the cows.
(She smiled and looked longingly) - "Ma's Julekake"
A two-seat swing that pa made out of wood
As a teen, putting up hay with ma and Walter. When we took a few minutes for
lunch, Walter would lay in the grass. I was so hot.
As a child - on the school bus in North Dakota.
NO! I never wanted to go anywhere. I just wanted to be outside at home.
When I finish crocheting a doily.
When I lived with your Grandpa Lyle. One thing for sure is that I never
needed to own a purse! (She laughed out loud)
I learned to work HARD! She could do ANYTHING!
I learned how to pet the baby. (She was referring to the fact that her dad's
pet was Alice, her youngest sibling.) I also learned how to be ornery.
I would buy something for my kids, then I would take each of my grandchildren
- one at a time - to buy an outfit... head to toe.
I loved the Lone Ranger. When we lived by the railroad tracks in St John, and
were neighbors with Grimms, I remember that. Loren would always be singing that
When I was young, I had a real nice figure. I sure beat Alice on THAT! (She
My friend, Berniece Coglin could play piano by ear. She played for dances.
Her mother was blind.
When the kids were young. Also - when Lyle was in the service. I had money
from the government and he was not there to spend it. My family was first - to
hell with Lyle. There were times at Christmas that he wasn't at home, and I
didn't care, and it was better when he wasn't. Grandpa (she was referring to
James Ward, Lyle's father) used to give me real good advice with my money then.
He said to pay my rent first, then pay for fuel, then buy food.
Not too much, but I know we used a horse and buggy.
Yes, I really liked the house across from the tracks in St John. I was real
proud of it. I would get my groceries at Roman's store and sometimes get some
groceries or chocolate at Jack Kerry's store. Mostly, I was embarrassed by the
houses I lived in. I didn't want certain people to see my houses. (She told me
this in such a way that I believed it to be DEEPLY embarrassing and hurtful.)
There really aren't any specific ones, but it was mostly always the same. Ma
would make big meals. She always cooked and baked from scratch. She made
Julekake and lefse and rosettes. There was a bedroom in the house that mostly
was never used. It was unheated, and she would store the baked goods in there -
Olga - She worked hard at home, but she never milked cows. She had to wash
Elmer - He hollered at me a lot. He always told me to keep a bonnet on and
William - I can't think of anything
Agnes - She helped ma out a lot by taking care of us kids. She didn't milk
Walter - He came to the house SO MUCH. Whenever he'd buy something new,
Alice - She would dust and do house chores. She played a lot with her dolls
Walter and William were chums and Alice and I were close. She always made me
so mad, but we were closest. We would all go to the big meadow where the hay
was. We'd put water in the gopher holes to get them to come out, then we'd chase
them and see if we could catch them.
Alan - He really liked his grandpa and stayed with him a lot. He was good-
Gerald - He was a "teaser". He avoided his older brothers because
Loren - Oh, my handsome Loren. He was quiet, but could hold his own with
Barbara - She was a loner. She wouldn't call me "ma" but called me
Jimmy - He could sure hold his own. He was a very hard worker. Lyle would put
Milton - He'd get into mischief, but he was a good boy. He was also a tease.
Bobby - He was the baby, and he was quiet, but funny. He was hot-tempered
Beth - She played a lot with Gerald. He'd take care of her. She was very
No, because it seems I always had poor eyes.
I didn't like her much. She was no good to your great-grandpa. She did bad
things. She did stay with me after I had each of my babies, though. She loved to
dance the Highland Fling. She could do it perfectly. She was a good cook. She
didn't like outside work except for the garden. She was friends with Howard
Irwin's parents, and that's how Alice met Howard.
He was the nicest man. A good man, that's for sure. I'd say he was
"perfect". He drank a little, but he always knew when to stop. He had
chickens and cows and was very responsible with them. After he'd come back from
a bar, he'd beckon the cows to come and be milked. He was a happy person. He had
a small separator, and would take the cream to town for grocery money. He'd also
have eggs in a crate, and would take them to town to sell. He'd take the kids to
town for ice cream.
I just don't know much. Ma and pa didn't get along, and he was gone a lot -
usually to Agnes's house, or someone else that would take him in. I just wanted
them to get along. I was always afraid and sad when they weren't together.
Nobody likes that when you're a kid. He was a pretty hard worker, and he chewed
tobacco. He was church-going, and went to church in Minnesota in a horse and
buggy. Alice was his "pet" and he'd have her sit on his lap all the
time - listening his pocket watch. I don't ever remember being able to do
I couldn't question things with her, so I never learned about her life or my
grandparents. She was strict. I called her Marie once (her name) and got
Grandma has very strong feelings and attachment when speaking about her mother. She admired and respected her a lot. Many of her answers kept coming back to details about her mother's life.
She had little to say about her father - only because he was not always around. Also, I feel part of the reason is that her mother was such an extraordinary person, that anyone else could get overlooked.
She has immense respect and love for her father-in-law (James Ward), but little of either for her mother-in-law Emma (Williams) Ward.
Her life and her world are about her family. Nothing else even comes close. If not for her family, she would not have that "glow" about her, nor would she feel she'd even be alive. It's all about her family!
Her life has never been about "things", nor does she ever have the need to impress. She is what she is. She wouldn't give you a nickel for possessions, and doesn't have a lot of good to say about those that are wrapped up in all the "stuff". All she needs is her family.
If you could put her on a farm with her family, and have cows roaming about.... nothing on this Earth would make her happier. When asked, she seldom complains about what she didn't have, and feels that she has everything she needs.
I also took some time to interview my aunt Beth (Grandma Ruth's youngest daughter). I am so glad I took the time. She speaks of her mother with the same respect and love that Grandma Ruth spoke about her mother. Here are some of the things that were said:
She was ALWAYS "there". She tried really hard to please. She did small things for us kids that didn't cost money - like always timing it just right for taking goodies from the oven - when the kids got home. I never felt that it was a "timing coincidence". She took branches from the trees for sucker sticks, and made homemade suckers. She is sweet and giving, and "cool". She seldom got angry. She liked to have her kids and their friends at her house. She was always so hard working. She canned, churned butter, hauled water, gardened, did farm chores, picked berries, and struggled to clothe the kids. She is an amazing woman.
email me at: Valerie.Boman@cox.net
Last updated March 23, 2014
© Valerie Ann (Biberdorf) Boman - 2004-2010