By Helen Method Newton
Brought to you by the Bonner County Historical Society & Museum
Self-quarantining is not entirely new to Bonner County old timers. Seventy years and more ago, it was pretty much a way of life. Farm families especially were used to being home almost all of the time except for a few hours a day for the children who were at school. When cows have to be milked at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., there isn’t a lot of time left to socialize. At the time we didn’t’ even know we were practicing social distancing.
In late 1946, my father bought a 240 acre farm at the top of the hill just south of Northside School from the Berg brothers, two old Norwegian bachelors. The land was separated down the middle by the dirt county road, then known as the Farm-to-Market Road but now called Colburn Culver. We moved there in February 1947. My parents, Harold and Ruth (Fetty) Method, were of strong mid-western stock and they were not strangers to living without electricity and indoor plumbing. It was their first order of business to have both brought into the house. When what you eat is dependent upon what you raised or grew, attention had to be paid to keeping the cows healthy, raising chickens, occasionally a hog, and maintaining a very large garden and a few apple trees. Mother spent her summers planting, weeding and then harvesting and “putting up” (canning – freezers came years later) vegetables and fruit. It seemed that all summer long she kept the wood stove stoked and was either canning something or cooking for harvest crews.
My father was busy from before dawn to after dusk tending to his 42 Holstein milk cows and plowing, seeding, and harvesting crops of hay and grain, all the while continually clearing more land of trees and stumps. September 1947 found me walking one mile each way to and from the Pack River School. It sat exactly where Northside sits today. We had one room, one teacher for eight grades, a large wood stove, and an outhouse and “the big kids” hauled water in from the well in the school yard. There was a small stable for the kids who were lucky enough to have a horse to ride to school. I envied them. I always wanted a horse but Daddy said, “A horse eats as much as two cows and the horse doesn’t produce any milk,” and selling milk was our only source of income.
Whenever I share these early school day details, people look at me and ask incredulously, “HOW OLD are you?” Old enough. Limited socializing took place with an occasional visit to a neighbor’s home where coffee was shared and always served with a dish of canned fruit and/or something the hostess had just baked. These visits were spontaneous. No calling ahead. No phones. Our first phone had 12 homes on the party line. It provided another way to know what was going on in the neighborhood while practicing social distancing.