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Rochert mail carrier used innovative ways to communicate

The front page story of the Sept. 30, Becker County Record reminded me of stories my dad, Fred Engstrom, and my uncle, Albert, told about delivering mail for the Rochert Star Route during the early 1930s. The photo on the front page of the newspaper was given to me by Debbie Johnson. This car, equipped with skis and tracks, was the forerunner of the modern day snowmobile.

Each summer Albert made an effort to bring his family from their home in Oklahoma to visit the old homestead where he grew up. Even though Albert lived in the same house in Bethany, Oklahoma for over 60 years, the Engstrom farm where he grew up in Holmesville Township was his "home" as far as he was concerned. When my dad and Albert were together stories would be told about mail hauling days.

A favorite story I remember centered around using a shotgun for a CB radio, or in this day and age I guess it would be called a cell phone. When the Model "A" Ford would get stuck in the mud near Fred Leder's farm (near Cotton Lake) Albert would fire the shotgun to alert my dad, who would be working outside at the Engstrom farm a half-mile away. This was my dad's signal to bring the horse to pull out the car.

When mud and clay got packed between the wheels and fenders of the car it had to be dug out with a spade. This problem was eliminated when the fenders were taken off the car and the mud went flying as the car sped down the muddy roads.

A hood ornament on the Model "A" Ford carried the evener, which was temporarily hooked to the front bumper of the car with a chain when roads were muddy. This saved time when the car needed help from a horse to get through the muddy roads.

Dogs chasing cars was a common annoyance which was bearable until one farmer's dog bit a hole in a tire. Albert tied a gunny sack to the spoke of the wheel, which would swat the dog when the dog tried to chase the car. The dog would continue to chase other cars, but he didn't chase the mailman's car after he got swatted by the gunny sack.

About 1940 the Rochert Post Office was moved to the Cotton Lake Store area, which is close to where Ed's River Run along the Otter Tail River is located today. In 1958 a new post office building was built where the present day post office building is located, which closed on Sept. 1, 2009.

During the fall of 2008 Earl Herman Jr. shared his memories of helping his dad, Earl Herman Sr., deliver mail on the Rochert Star Route. Earl's memories were recorded by Rayna Zima for the "Museum Road Show" which airs on a local television channel, TV-3.

Thanks to Albert Engstrom and Earl Herman Jr. for sharing their memories of delivering mail for the Rochert Star Route. Their memories of this bygone era will live on for future generations. Thanks to those individuals who organized the Holmesville Centennial Celebration in 1989, and published a booklet about the history of the township which contains the story Albert wrote. Thanks to the Becker County Historical Society for preserving the history of our county, and to the Detroit Lakes Newspaper for publishing interesting articles about "how it used to be" in Becker County many years ago. -- Roger Engstrom, Detroit Lakes