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Days Gone By: Letters from Lucille

Panoramic view of River Falls, unknown date. (Ron Miller photo)

In one of those serendipitous moments earlier this year Doreen Patoile of River Falls was seated next to Ron Miller of Madison while flying home from Washington. When asked where she was from he opened his computer and shared the following memories of his great-aunt Lucille (Carroll) Meamber from letters written in 1979.

The letters are about her life in River Falls as a child from 1892 to 1905. She was born in 1891 in Minneapolis and died in 1980 in San Francisco, Calif.

“I went there in 1892. Dona and I were 16 months apart and grew up as twins, I the older. (Idona I. (Carroll) Hatcher was born in 1892 in River Falls, and died in 1972 in Shelton, Wash., and was the grandmother of Ron Miller)

“Xmas was a standout in my memory — Grandma and Grandpa (Frank J. and Eunice M. Savage) always had us all and I remember their big Xmas tree lighted with candles and Grandpa dressed as Santa Claus in his red suit and long Hi! Ho! whiskers — though I knew there was a real Santa. We spent Xmas eve night at Grandma’s for years and hung our red stockings up on the mantle. Sure enuf next morn our stockings were filled with candies, a whistle or some small article. Then Xmas morn we got our gifts off the tree as Santa called our names and all thru my life Xmas holidays have been foremost in my mind (my season).

“Behind Grandma’s home was a hill and as the month of May came, we two girls spent our time picking mayflowers, next come buttercups, the hill completely covered and still at 88 years old I can see the beauty of it all. Then came violets and to this day purple and lavender are my favorite colors due to the gorgeous site of a hill covered with violets.

“The main street of River Falls was called “Main Street” in the 1890s. There was, as I recall, about two blocks of stores. My Dad, Frank W. Carroll, had a corner grocery store and next my Grandpa Carroll had a farmers supply store. We were not allowed to go beyond that but I do recall the brilliantly colored barber poles across the street as they whirled round and round. There were over 1,000 people and one fire engine drawn by two horses — an exciting picture for us all who ran to follow it.

“Grandma Savage was instrumental in the growth of the first Baptist Church, a great organizer, played the organ and sang the solos, lead the choir and congregation in songs.

“We lived on Elm Street. It was lined with maple trees of dazzling colors in the fall months.

“Grandpa Carroll was town councilman and sheriff of Pierce County.

“Grandpa Savage ran the first electric light plant and we had our first electric lite hanging on a cord from the ceiling to light a whole room.

“A Catholic and a Baptist church were the only ones in town.

“They had one doctor, no office, only his home, no hospital — nearest one was 30 miles away in St. Paul, Minn. And each spring and each fall Mother took us to St. Paul for proper clothes for our schooling. Riding the train was a great event — two cars and an all-black engine which spewed coal black smoke.

“We had one policeman, must have been a jail but I don’t recall it.

“Seems as though most of my memories are at our home and especially our parlor where Mother gave all four of us music lessons. I still recall the details of our home life but not so much of the town where a bubbling creek ran thru.

“There was a park and Sunday we gathered there in the afternoon to listen to the band called “The Hungry Seven” — all horns.

“We gals marched in all parades, Easter, Memorial Day, etc. — always in our best clothes and carrying baskets of flowers.

“I know this isn’t a review of River Falls as you had wanted but I do recall my family life vividly. —Aunt Lucille.”

The second letter contains more information about River Falls.

“One thing that is clear in my memory is that in our park is a glen where in early spring Mother would take us down to pick “Jack in the Pulpit” and other rare flowers in this age and as you know, I loved the violets. All my long life they seemed to be my favorite.

“You asked about the water in those early days. We had an iron pump that worked by using the handle to pump water out of a spout deal and all water had to be pumped outside and carried into the house in pails — no sink or water inside and pails of water were carried into the kitchen put into a tub boiler to heat (that clothes were washed in) and Mother stood us in the tub to bathe each of us every Saturday. Boy, what a job and what a wonderful Mother we had — hard working to keep all of us going — six of us.

“You asked about the bath room: Never heard the word until we moved to Portland in 1905. I think it was where Dad built a new four bedroom home and we had a bathroom. I loved it and to sit in the tub filled with water was a luxury.

“As to heat, we had a big iron coal stove in the dining room. On coldest of days we came there to dress, Dona and I and Rotha and Wayne. Both Mother and Dad worked on that one.

“You asked about lighting in River Falls. All rooms were lighted with oil filled lamps, another big job for Mother to keep them filled. Bless her. How could she do it all?

“We had no toilet facilities in house, but way in the back of our lot was a 3 holer called a back house, and toilet paper was a catalog like Sears Roebuck type. “Funny? But we knew no different, same with all our friends.”


Editor’s Note: It is believed the house referred to was located on the corner of Spruce and Spring Streets. If readers have any information on the photo please call Pat Hunter at 715-425-1561, or email