Minnesota's Greatest Generation

Margaret Nadeau Hensel: Happy Years

Margaret Nadeau Hensel grew up near Centerville, in Anoka County. Even though times were difficult, she remembered childhood days filled with both hard work and fun on her parents' dairy farm in the 1920s and 1930s. The following story is excerpted from her memoir, "From Farm Girl to Flight Nurse."

Memoir Excerpt

I was born December 6, 1921 on a dairy farm near Centerville, Minnesota to Josephine and William Nadeau. I was second in a family of six children and I remember my growing up years as full of the demands of the times. They were happy years despite the hardships; the smell of kerosene lamps and lanterns, the lack of running water, the outhouses, scrubbing clothes on the old scrubbing boards, hauling in wood for fuel for heat and cooking, the unending chores, cleaning barns and chicken coops, feeding and milking the cows by hand. There were the summers of hard work in the fields to fill the hay loft and grain bins in preparation for winter.

Our family worked together and played together. Summer evenings of playing ball, or run-sheep-run, or hide-and-seek. My parents were aware of their children's need for recreation. Sundays were always a day of rest, church and only the necessary chores. There were get-togethers with grandparents and cousins, swapping stories and playing games. Occasionally there would be a trip to Wildwood Amusement Park for a swim or a picnic by White Bear Lake. Occasionally we could even afford a ride on one of the roller coasters. Always on the evening of the 4th of July, chores would be completed early so we could have the treat of a movie in White Bear Theatre. It felt so cool in there after a day of making hay in the hot sun.

The horses always had special care. They were an important part in survival of life on a farm. They were the power that pulled the machinery for harvest. They pulled the wagon that transported the milk cans to the local creamery, to church, to visit relatives and to get groceries. Shopping for clothing was usually done through a catalog by mail.


Margaret M. Nadeau Hensel, From Farm Girl to Flight Nurse. Minnesota Historical Society: Share Your Story, 2006.