CHISHOLM – Recorded in the pages of the 1950 Chisholm Arrow junior high yearbook from is a collection of writings about the mining industry.
Even though it was nearly 70 years ago, students then realized the impact of mining on the world around them.
Joanne Lozekar (nee Lucas), recalled the students’ entries in the yearbook were actually writing assignments from English class.
Lucas recalled her dad worked in an above ground mine in the Nashwauk area.
“He drove himself in a Model A, which was considered new at the time,” recalled Lozekar.
In her freshman year, Lozekar wrote the following poem about the underground miners.
The miners descend
Into their dark wonderland
Digging out rich, red ore
Mining cars creak
Bringing up our men
Noble with the lordly weariness
Rose Tolonen (nee Kochar), a classmate of Lozekar’s said her dad worked in an underground mine near Chisholm.
Like many of the miners in town from that era, her dad rode a bus to and from work.
“Hacketts bus used to pick my father up and drop him off on Ninth Street South,” Tolonen vivdly recalled.
A poem by Spencer Robnik, then a seventh grader, captured the era of hard-working miners taking the bus to and from work.
The typical miner catches the bus,
Early in the morning without any fuss,
He works with a steady crew of five,
It’s hard work but one way to thrive
A poem by James Russ, a freshman, captured echoed the sentiment of the Arrow’s dedication page, which referred to ore as “Red Gold.”
Is like gold to us.
We mine it every day.
And when it goes on a journey long,
It’s hope is to make our nation strong.
Maryiln Arko, then an eighth grader told about the early days of mining and the dangerous conditions that existed in the underground mines.
“Having only the feeble light of a single candle to guide them in the black, murky depths of the mines, the miners descended rickety, wooden ladders to the various levels,” wrote Arko.
She continued, “Mules were kept underground to haul ore from the drifts to the shaft. Then the ore was hoisted with the skip and dumped into ore cars of stockpiles.”
The miners worked six days a week and 10 hours a day for low wages, she wrote.
“From these humble beginnings our community has come far,” concluded Arko. “Taxes from our rich iron ore deposits have given us fine schools and many cultural and educational advantages that other communities, less favored by nature, lack. Iron ore is truly the blood of our community.”
An entry by John Lundberg, a seventh grader, resembled the commercials airing in modern times, educating the public on how mining impacts our everyday life.
“Iron is a metal which might well be called the keystone of modern industry and material civilization,” wrote Lundberg. “Imagine how helpless we would be without knives, and how awkward we would work if obligated to use hammers and hatchets of stone.”
Lundberg continued, “The ore is usually hard rock, which has to be mined and blasted underground, but in the great Mesabi Range of Minnesota it is so soft and so near the surface, that it is taken out with steam shovels on railroad tracks. These shovels can load a fifty ton car in three minutes. This accessibility makes the Mesabi the most valuable iron range in the world.”
Equipment used for mining in the 50s is a fraction of the size of that used today. One can only imagine what Vito Latkovich, then an eighth grader would think of modern-day mining equipment. Here is a firsthand account Latkovich, then an eighth grader, shared after a visit to a local mine.
The World’s Largest Shovel
When I gaze upon this monster of steel, I could feel my eyes popping with wonder. This steel structure ranks as the world’s largest iron-ore power shovel. It stands gigantically high in the South Agnew Mine near Mahoning, only ten miles from our town of Chisholm.
I stood looking at its huge steel boom held up by cables four inches in diameter! WHen a man goes up to repair this boom, he is elevated so high he looks like a little ant!
This hotel-like cab of this shovel is enormous. This “hotel” is three stories high! In it is a high-powered electric motor of many hundred horse-power. How one man can operate and control this “gargantuan creature” is amazing!
This eye-deceiving sight loads a conveyor which takes a huge amount of ore up a mile-long hillside! In its bucket, a huge dragline, is room for two Euclid mining trucks! This seems unbelievable, but so I was told.
When I arrived home that day, I wrote an account of my visit. I feel that I was a lucky boy to have such an experience!
The tie between the mines of the Iron Range and the ships on Lake Superior was evident in the 50s as much as today. An entry by Walter Petrusic, an eighth grader told the story of what happens to a carload of ore.
A Carload of Ore
“Have you ever wondered what happened to me after I was taken out of the pit?” wrote Petrusic.
“Well, first I was herded onto a truck with many other cars. Then a man came along and took samples of my ore to be tested for its grade. Soon a huge locomotive came and took about eighty-seven of us cars on a two-day trip. We ended up at the shore of Lake Superior where we were taken up on a ramp to dump our loads of ore, one by one, into a waiting ore boat. The hold of the ship was cold and damp. We then started on our trip across the lakes. It took us quite a while to get to Buffalo and then on to Pittsburgh. There I was melted into pig iron. Then I was made into a steel beam. Who knows, I may have returned to serve as a beam in your school.”