Reyerson revisits memories of a Guttenberg childhood

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Harlen Reyerson recalls a childhood filled with outdoor recreation and creative ingenuity. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Harlen Reyerson has many fond memories of growing up in Guttenberg. He and his band of adventuresome friends — Don Moser, Carl Aulwes and Denny Randall — enjoyed many hours of outdoor recreation on the bluffs and waterways that surround our picturesque community. The foursome created lasting memories that continue to put a smile on Harlen's face. 

Reyerson was born in 1940 and moved to the area when he was ten years old. He grew up on the property his mother owned. Reyerson remembered, "My mother, Malinda, my sister, Joanne, my brother, Don, and I, lived on the property my mother owned just below the north hill. She had two big gardens. One was for sweet corn and potatoes – the other for smaller vegetables. She also had apple and cherry trees and grapevines."

"In the summertime she sold sweet corn to the Island folks that arrived on weekends. The Ertls and the Hendricks were some of her loyal customers," he said. "We were expected to help out with the chores, but my mom always made sure we had time to run on the hillside."

Homemade cannon

The mischievous boys crafted a homemade cannon. "We took a one-inch well pipe and made a cannon out of it. We got solder from old discards from the speaker factory, and ground-up match heads for the powder, and shot marbles out of it. One of us was the engineer behind the cannon, but I'm not going to say whom, and the rest of us knew where to get the supplies. We were resourceful. We shot it up into the hillside. There is probably still a marble up there somewhere," he said with a laugh. "We were always going to shoot it off from the old Phillips 66 station, where Doc Barron's office now sits, into Herman's Pond – but we never got around to it."

Willow tree teepees

The industrious foursome built willow branch teepees. "There was a willow patch in front of the Livingston house. We would make teepees out of the branches. Every summer, Owen Pufahl, 'Pufie,' would set a fire in the bottom to control the grassy area and burn our teepees down. One summer we outsmarted him, and cut the grass away from around our teepees. When he burned the bottom, the fire stayed away and we saved our willow huts," he shared.  

Neighborhood swimming hole

"We used to swim in the river at the end of Haydn Street and River Park Drive. They had a low diving board, and a higher platform board to jump off of. Bernie Aulwes and a gal named Nancy were the lifeguards. We all learned to swim there. In later years we swam off the south end of the seawall," he said. 

Reyerson recalled, "In the spring of the year, before the flood wall was built, the backwaters in town would flood. We liked to build a raft and float around on it." 

Lead mines

Harlen and his group explored the lead mines located on the bluffs. "There were three lead mines — or potholes — on the bluff. You could only go back about six or eight feet. We would find lead pieces lying around. There are two lead mines on what we called 'Second Hill,' and we had to crawl on our hands and knees to get back into the one. We could eventually walk crouched down, and then we would arrive in a large room where we could stand up. It was about the size of a small living room. We never went into the other one. It didn't look too safe," he said.

Winter activities 

"Winter months we spent ice skating and sleigh riding. Most of the time we were skating on Herman's pond. It wasn't uncommon to see thirty or forty ice skaters on the ice on a Saturday afternoon. I believe the city used to clear off the area. If it got too crowded we would go to Limbeck Pond. We had to shovel that area off ourselves," he recalled. 

"We loved to sleigh ride on the hillside across from Nordic Forge. In the fall, we would climb up the hill, and cut down all the brush and scrub sumac trees to clear a path for our sleds. Our sledding hill was about 150 feet long, and then you ended up on the ice," he noted. 

"There was a rock at the bottom of the trail that you had to avoid. If you hit the rock it would flip your sled and send you rolling on to the ice. Davey Eglseder loved to hit that rock and flip his sled!" he chuckled. 

Reyerson remembered gathering slab wood and filling up a bucket with lump coal for the round oak heater and his mother's combination gas/wood cookstove. 

He recalled the family's first black and white television set that didn't come in very well, and his mother making sure her children were raised properly— regularly attending the Lutheran church. 

Reyerson graduated from high school in 1958. He has three children: Robbie, Tony and the late Kelly Crubaugh; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He retired from John Deere in 1995 after a 35-year career with the company.  

He concluded, "Thinking back – we always had something to do."  

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