The Widows of Second Street

by Ed Howard
Reprinted from Society News, the newsletter of the Arcadia Area Historical Society
June 2013. Volume 19 Issue 1.

This title may sound like an eerie tale out of witch-time Salem, but it’s really just a lonesome remembrance Society Trustee Raymond Knudsen has about growing up on Second Street in Arcadia. From his home there, east-side, one house back from Pine, young Ray could wander all the way north to Lake Street and back the other side and not see one other kid. Both sides, Lake and back, only widow ladies and older folks. And, this only child of Walt and Emma Knudsen yearned for someone to play with.


The Knudsen Home



It came with the house.

Ray’s life began there at birth in January, 1933, but his folks had bought the house from Dr. Jamieson three years earlier. For $1000, it came complete with outdoor toilet, outside pump, two stall barn, wood burning cook stove and a wood/coal burning heater. His folks never owned a car, so a little detached garage was always used as a woodshed.

From earliest days, Ray had loved baseball, but tossing and catching by himself—or bouncing it off the barn or woodshed got pretty boring. Worse yet, he had to be careful, Mrs. Amanda Adams, across the street, didn’t really appreciate the little, red-headed neighbor boy. She warned him regularly to keep himself and his ball out of their yard. Anytime the ball chanced to roll that way, Ray carefully scanned the Adams windows before darting in to retrieve it. Mrs. Adams had a husband, Pete, but it seemed he was always off working. He’d once been the cook on the ill-fated ship Arcadia.

It was safer playing near the Leuker house, next to Mrs. Adams, right on Pine. It was only in the summer that anyone even stayed there. Mrs. Leuker was a widow lady and the mother-in-law of Bob Starke who ran the Furniture Factory. That’s where Ray’s dad worked. Another widow, Mrs Emma Hansen, lived right next to Knudsens on the other corner of Second and Pine. She also had a barn. Mrs. Hansen was always friendly enough, but Ray knew her mainly as the mother-in-law of Leo Tondu, the most popular builder in town.



The Leuker House

Next door on the north was Ray’s favorite widow, Mrs. Alvina Stockman. Her husband, A. H. Stockman, had been (and is) well known for his postcard photographs of local people and places, and his part in building the Arcadia United Methodist Church. Alvina was a kind and generous lady and looked after Ray like a grandson. To this day, he talks of her as “Grandma Stockman”.

Ray especially remembers her saving grace during a trying incident when he was only ten years old. Somehow, a little fire he’d started in the yard flamed up and began spreading toward the barn. About then, dad Walt and a buddy were returning from a little respite at the Big Apple. Walt was in no mood to stomp out a spreading yard fire, but stomp he must—and rant he did, swearing discipline upon the little culprit who caused such havoc. But, it was Grandma Stockman to the rescue. With Ray cowering in her lap, she briskly shook her finger and sharply warned “Walt, you are not going to harm this boy!”



Ray with "Grandma Stockman"

On the other side of Grandma Stockman was Raymond’s next favorite older folks, Ed and Hilda Larson. Their house bordered right on Mill Street and was probably the nicest one on the block. Ed was bookkeeper at the Factory. They were both kind to “the Knudsen boy”, and Ray really appreciated Hilda’s regular gifts of old magazines. Next to baseball, he loved looking at magazines, ones full of pictures of far-away places and important people. Knowing this, Hilda would let him have her old issues of Look and Life. What a treasure.

On north, across Mill Street from the Larsons, was a big house on a big lot that seemed empty most of the time (now Mrs. Boots' home). Raymond’s attention was always more fixed on the next house, the one just before the Drugstore. That’s where Carrie Schafer lived. She and husband Jim owned Schafers Market and had a slaughter house right on the property. Having young Ray around seemed to upset Carrie, so he dared not linger by for long. She would routinely be out urging him to “Go straight home, Raymond, or the Boogie Man will get you.”

Sometimes, leaving the Drugstore, where he’d maybe had a soda and tried to look at the magazines, Ray would cross the street before Schafers and go home by way of Anna Hasse’s big house. It was then the only house on that whole block. Anna, another widow, lived there with older daughter Martha. They were both good to Ray and often gave him money-making jobs like beating rugs and mowing the lawn. Mowing that big lawn with that old mechanical push mower was hard work, but much worth the quarters he earned. With these, he could buy that Drugstore soda and even get some candy down town.

Heading on home, Ray would cross Mill and pass the Furniture Company’s rental house right on the corner. Milford Laramy, a supervisor at the Factory, lived there. Next was Louise Starke’s home. She was Bob Starke’s mother and the widow of Charles Starke, the man who started the Arcadia Furniture Company where Ray’s dad and so many others made their living.



Ray (here more grown-up) with his Dad, Walt, and dog "Speck." Background left is the Furniture Factory. Background right is Louise Starke's home and the company's rental house.

With Amanda Adams’ yard in sight, Raymond crossed over home at the next house. Earl Mead owned it; he’d been a teacher in Arcadia, but no longer lived there. During the school year, it was sometimes rented to other teachers.

With young Ray safely home, we’ll here conclude his rather lonely journey along Second Street in the thirties and early forties. Some years ago, after a successful career in Education, Ray returned to our area and now lives in Bear Lake. When in Arcadia, he sometimes turns at the Drugstore and drives down his old home avenue. He relishes the fact that all those homes of his youth are still there--and so much improved. He does note, with relief, that the old Schafer slaughter house is gone—and with it, thoughts of that “Boogie Man.” But, wait, why does his car mysteriously accelerate when passing Schafers?