Legionnaire of the Month
The last American Legion member with over 60 years of continuous membership to recognize is Dale Schmiesing. After talking with Dale, I think we saved the easiest one for last as it was not too complicated keeping track of his military base relocations. But again, we are getting ahead of Dale’s story.
Before I proceed with that I want to thank all of the Post 23 members with over 60 years of continuous membership for allowing me to talk with you and share a little bit of your story. It was a very humbling experience and I learned a lot. They were most unique and all interesting in their own way. The one big thing I came away with was the reinforcement that God gave all of us the ability to meet whatever the challenges are that we face. I know there are countless other stories that could be told (Post 23 has over 200 members). There are many others just as important, that would be of great interest and well worth telling. But to keep this project objective, I simply selected everyone with over 60 year’s membership. Last I need to give a Big Thanks to both Lisa and Garrick and the Garretson Gazette. They have been most cooperative and bent over backwards to not only accommodate these articles but often feature them on our front page coverage. So with that said, let’s get back to Dale.
Dale’s story started on a very hot July 22, 1932. “It was thrashing season and my mother was trying to feed the ‘thrashing crew’ when she went into labor. I was delivered by my grandmother on our farm near Revere MN.” Dale did not recall if the thrashing crew got fed or not that day—but most likely they did. Like most during this time, a hospital was not part of the birth process unless there were unusual circumstances.
At the age of four Dale moved with his family to Jasper MN. By the time he was old enough to start school they had moved to the Randy Pierret farm north of Garretson. Dale attended 1st grade in Sherman. By the 2nd grade they had moved into Garretson and Dale started attending school at Garretson and graduated from GHS in 1950.
After high school Dale wanted to join the Navy and see the world. He tried to enlist but they told him he medically didn’t qualify because of his ‘varicose veins’. So instead Dale decided he would apply for a job with Nash Finch. Dale said “to get this first job I had to ‘fudge’ a bit on my age (17). Later that lie caught up with me as on some later paperwork I put down my real DO. Someone caught that but by then it was too late to do anything about it.
All was going along well and by now he was earning big bucks (77 cents an hour). He had also been courting a young gal from Del Rapids by the name of Agnes Geraets. In December of 1952, to his surprise, he received a letter from Uncle Sam stating he was to report to Ft. Sheraton, IL to take his physical to become drafted into the Army. Evidently the Army needed Dale more than the Navy as he passed that physical with flying colors. “I must have waited a week in Ft. Sheraton for my orders. Each day others would get orders to ship out. Soon it seemed like I was one of the few men left and had to do KP almost by myself. One day seemed like forever as I had to get up at 2AM and did not done till late that next night.”
“Finally I got my orders and boarded a bus to Ft. Lenardwood, MO. I took my 8 weeks basic training and then like most everyone else went on for 8 more weeks of Combat Engineer Training. I found out real fast that MO can be cold in Dec/Jan—especially in a pub tent. But we were all in it together; I got to know some of these guys well. One guy was from Onida, SD. Most of the others were from all over the country, Louisiana, Chicago, etc. After we completed training most were sent elsewhere. I’m sure some went to Korea but I’ve never kept in touch. For some reason I was assigned to the 6th Quartermaster right in Ft. Lenordwood where I became a ‘chauffeur’ to a Coronel. He was in charge of camp inspections and we would drive around inspecting the area. If we ever found cigarette butts he got real upset. He would get after the DI’s to have the troops police the area. After that duty I was next assigned as an ITA Clerk. This was an easy job and when we were not busy I got pretty good at playing ping pong in the clubhouse. It was pretty much like a civilian job and for whatever reason they kept me in this job till I was discharged on Dec. 1, 1954.”
Because Dale was not too far from Agnes, he made it back on short furloughs. By May 7, 1953 they had had enough of this long distance romance and got married. “I had a one week furlough so it was a short honeymoon. That summer we bought a 1950 Chevy Coup and Agnes was going to come down and we would live off base. Before that happened, on one of the trips the timing gear broke and I had to have the car towed and leave it in a small town in Iowa to be repaired.” Dale still had a copy of the bill--$49.79 which included $2.50 towing charge. After Dale picked the car up again he returned to SD and they loaded all of their belongings. “We moved into a trailer house off base. It was probably 8x16 and the entire court was full of military men and their wives. It was more like a civilian job then a military one. I’d go in about 7:30 and get off around 4. We made a lot of good friends there from all over—Polina, IA, Dodge Center, MN, New York, etc. We did keep in touch for many years but have now lost contact. “
Two of their four children, Barb & Sharon, were born while they were in Ft. Lenordwood. The hospital bill for Sharon was $8.75. Like others in that trailer court, they made due with close quarters and even saved some money to upgrade to a newer car. By Dec. 1954 they were ready to come back to SD. Like others who were drafted, Dale was guaranteed to get his old delivery job back at Nash Finch. Dale continued with Nash Finch from 1954 to 1960. (I have to insert a personal note here—Dale is the only one I know from Garretson who made more trips to my home town of Milltown SD than anyone else. These were not to attend the dances at Island Park Ballroom but to deliver groceries to the Milltown Grocery Store—long since gone.)
“After 6 years with Nash Finch I took a better paying job as a semi driver for John Morrell. I delivered meat all over the Midwest. It was a good job but I didn’t get to sleep in my own bed much. When I started I was home 4 nights a week but as my area grew, so did my nights out. Toward the end I usually left on Sunday after church and returned again on Friday. During this time we moved to N. of I-90 west of Cliff Ave. By 1994, after 34 years I was ready to retire and we moved to Garretson. But Dale did not ‘fully retire’. You can still find him working part time for the elevator delivering fertilizer.
Dale concluded our visit by saying: “I joined the Legion in 1954 when Fritz Debates ask me to join. Because my job required me to travel and be gone so much I did not hold many officer positions. Finally in 1976 I worked out a travel schedule that allowed me to be home on Thursday nights. So that is the year I was Commander. That was the last year we were in the old dugout. The next year Ralph Schreurs became Commander and we tackled the big building project to expand to the south. I have really enjoyed being a member of the Legion and have many good memories. We used to have pasture picnics in the summer. Things were different back then and the women were not part of it—they and the kids gathered at someone’s home. I have been part of the Color Guard for as long as I can remember. We have had a lot of changes and fundraisers over the years. A fun but expensive one was going to other communities selling raffle tickets—the top prize was a car.
Dale has been a continuous member of Garretson Post 23 for 61 years. He was an early member of the Color Guard and at the young age of 82+ continues to be an active Color Guard member. Dale, it is because of your long and dedicated membership and others like you that we all can take pride in our local American Legion Post. On behalf of Post 23 we thank you Dale for your dedication and service to our community, state and nation.