By LeAnn R. Ralph
BOYCEVILLE — For as long as Ron Grutt can remember, Boyceville High School’s mascot has been a bulldog.
Grutt has lived in Boyceville all his life and graduated from Boyceville High School in 1950.
One year while Grutt was in high school, someone got the idea that he should bring his cousin’s bulldog to a basketball game. “Spike was a little white bulldog. He stood about this tall (indicating knee height). He was pure white. He had one black spot. He was my cousin’s dog. For a couple of seasons, the cheerleaders at halftime, would (do a Bulldogs’ cheer), and we would have him on a leash and take him around the basketball floor,” Grutt recalled.
“After a couple of seasons, he passed away, but it really hit home to have a bulldog for the games,” he said.
After that, Grutt does not recall that there were any other bulldogs to carry on the legacy — only Spike.
“Spike didn’t seem to mind (being the mascot). We used to take him on out-of-town games, too, once in a while. We’d all get on the bus and would ride the bus with the team. Spike rode on the bus, too. That’s going back some years. I graduated in 1950. That was in the late ‘40s when we had Spike,” Grutt said.
When asked if there were any pictures of Spike, Grutt said there were not.
“I was thinking about that, but, no, I don’t have any pictures of him,” he said.
One aspect of the school district that has changed over the years is the number of teachers.
“When I think of the teachers we have now, we must have 60 or 70 … we had about four or five high school teachers back then. One man did the coaching. We used to have football and basketball and track. The principal even taught. Things have changed. We had two school buses, and then we finally got three school buses in 1950. Now I think we have ten or 12 now,” Grutt said.
The school buildings have expanded as well.
“The school at that time was a big square building. It had first, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth downstairs. And you went upstairs, and that was all high school. There were a few things in the basement. Home Ec, for one. And woodworking. The elementary was all in the same building then. Now they’ve got their own building (Tiffany Creek Elementary),” he said.
In high school, Grutt says he remembers taking English, math, Social Studies, and science, and that Social Studies was his favorite class. “When I went to school, there was just the old part over there. Then we built a gym. That gym is still there, and it is used for plays. There is a middle school gym, too, that they call the Gymatorium where they put bleachers in, and then there’s the big gym, the one farthest east where they play all the sports,” Grutt said.
“The school is double or triple in size over what it used to be. The gym is still there from the old school, but the building where I went to school has been torn down. They left the gymnasium that they built at that time. They use the other one for sports, too. That was a big project to put the bleachers in. They had graduation in the Gymatorium this year,” he said.
Grutt served in Korea after he graduated from high school. He was in the Army and served as a medic.
“We had a platoon of 40 men. Four platoons made a company at that time. It was a rifle company. I was the medical aid man. Wherever they would go, on recon patrols in enemy territory, if anybody got hit or injured, I’d fix them up, and then they’d take them down to the aid station. That was in 1951, and I went to Korea in 1953. We were in two major campaigns,” Grutt said.
“Then I came back to Boyceville, and then I went to Dunwoody and took up architectural drafting and estimating. That was a two-year course, then I got my job on the railroad in 1956, and I retired in 1997,” he said.
Grutt lived in the Twin Cities during the week for the 41 years he worked for the railroad and came home on weekends.
“My church was down here. That closed up, St. John’s. I go up to Grace now in Connorsville. It’s the same synod. The Methodists have bought our St. John’s Church. They’re going to move there in a couple of months. Our old church was right across from the school. It was a big frame building that was torn down … the bell in our church came from St. Paul’s up in Glenwood City,” he said.
“I worked in the engineering department. We did the maintenance on the railroads, putting in culverts and bridges. Keeping all of the buildings up to date. It was endless,” Grutt said, noting that the railroad going through Boyceville started out as Wisconsin Central, then became the Soo Line and is now Canadian National.
“We had a section crew in Boyceville. Now we have one section crew that covers the whole area. Every town had a section crew. Wheeler and Colfax and Emerald, Cylon, New Richmond. It’s more automated now. But now today we have joint bars every quarter mile, so that really cuts down on maintenance. In the old days, they had the welded joint rail every 39 feet. They have a special weld now. They put (the rail) on a bunch of flat cars. They call it ribbon rail,” he said.
“Boyceville has really changed over the years. We used to have three grocery stores. Now we don’t have any,” Grutt said.
Years ago, Boyceville also “had a hardware store, and we had two feed mills, and we had three gas stations, and we had a funeral home, and a dentist and a blacksmith shop, and of course the railroad had a depot.
There were four passenger trains a day. The morning train went west, then a forenoon train, then an afternoon train going west, and a night train going east. Quite a few freight trains. We had a creamery. We had a lumber yard. Some stores downtown. Boy, it has sure changed,” he said.
“We had a couple of car dealerships, too. Keyes, and Chuck Stone had a dealership down here … Harry Nelson ran a grocery store, too, with gas, at the edge of town. We had a variety of things. The post office and the bank were downtown too,” Grutt said, noting that Boyceville had a drugstore as well.
“Every car I bought, I bought at Keyes,” he said.
“We have the Cucumber Festival now, but they used to call it the Fall Festival, or something like that. It was Friday night and Saturday. We used to have a big street dance on Friday, and then on Saturday, water fights between the fire departments. We had a fly-in at the airport. And sometimes a Drum and Bugle Corps. And a parade at 1 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. That night we’d have another big street dance again. Then that became the Cucumber Festival,” Grutt said.
Grutt says he does not remember what year it changed to the Cucumber Festival.
“That’s going back some years,” he said.
“Down by the depot, we used to have the pickle factory. That’s why we have the Cucumber Festival. But the pickle factory, that’s gone, too,” Grutt said.
“Years ago, Boyceville also did not have the number of houses that there are in town now. It’s almost like a separate (village) out by the post office. And Granbrakken (Way) wasn’t out here, either. We were about 700 or 800 before that. Now we’re over a thousand. The school has a big track now, too. Years ago, if we were going to play a ballgame, we had to go out to the park. It’s Andy Pafko Park now,” Grutt said.
Grutt says he recalls playing “kitten ball” in high school, but that he was not out much for sports.
“We didn’t really have that many sports teams or sports to play,” he said.
Grutt also fondly remembers Boyceville’s telephone exchange.
“We had the telephone office with the switchboard. It was toward the school, at the end of the block,” he said.
“At that time, we didn’t have all of the big fancy telephones. We had the telephone office. The operator would ask for the number and would make the connection. We had three or four operators. They worked shifts. The night person had a cot there, and they slept there in case someone needed to make a telephone call during the night. They had a phone booth in the office, and if you wanted to make a call, you could go in there to do it.
It was a square room, with a door, and you went in there and made your call,” Grutt said.
Boyceville had its own newspaper office, too, The Press Reporter.
“I remember going in there and seeing the Linotype, and I remember the smell of the hot lead,” he recalled.
“And we had implement dealers. Friday and Saturday nights were big nights in Boyceville. Everyone would come to town after working on the farm all week. They’d come in to do their shopping, to stand and talk on the street. The taverns were full. Sit down and talk about what you did for the week. Now it has all changed. Society is different now,” he said.