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An unusual gift

GAYS MILLS - I recently received a very unusual gift. This gift was not available in any store and is one I never would have thought to ask for. It’s a gift I treasure and will keep for a long time.  I hope to find someone, someday to pass it along to who will appreciate it like I do.

Marjie Jurgensen asked me if I wanted some old, bound copies of the Crawford County Independent. Marjie was an employee of the Independent for 34 years, and served as the de-facto manager and editor of the paper. During that time, the Independent merged, in 1979, with the Soldiers Grove newspaper and became the Crawford County Independent and Kickapoo Scout that you now hold in your hands.

Marjie gave me four bound volumes. They cover the years 1957-58, 1958-59, 1959-60, and 1962-63. The volumes start in May and end in May of the following year.  They offer a peek into the Gays Mills of around 60 years ago and are interesting to look through. Those were years before the Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills school districts merged to form North Crawford Schools. The town was a strong country town, the times were simpler and easier to understand.

If you love this old town like I do, these volumes offer a trip down memory lane. I’ve always considered Gays Mills to be my hometown, even though we moved to California in 1951. It was a forced move–I was six years old.

Fortunately, we came back to visit a few times during summers and that maintained my bond with the charming little valley town and the surrounding area. After 26 years away, my family and I moved back to Gays Mills and have lived here for the past 42 years.

There weren’t very many pictures in the old papers, let alone flashy color pictures like we have today. In 1958, an annual subscription to the paper cost $2! There were many columns in the paper devoted to neighborhood happenings such as Copper Creek, Barnum, Boma Ridge, and Soldiers Grove. Local people would call in and report on who visited who, who may have gone shopping in LaCrosse, who may have been laid up with an illness, and so on.

In every week’s paper now, there is a section called Remembering the Way it Was. This is a sampling of news bits taken directly from the pages of old copies of the Independent, which are found in the Independent office. The paper began publication in 1905 so it makes quite an archive.  

The Gays Mills Library also has some copies of the bound newspapers. If you want to do some research or just find out about what went on in the last 113 years around here, they are available to you.

I tend to wax nostalgic when I page through the old papers. The town has evolved over the years, as the country has evolved.  

That evolution has speeded up with the flooding we’ve experienced and has caused dramatic changes in our town.  But it’s still Gays Mills, my hometown.