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Loraine Blodgett: The Biggest Little Girl from Boyceville

By Kelsie Hoitomt

BOYCEVILLE – George and Tilda Peck had two sons and three daughters including one whom has become one of the longest living members in the community. Loraine (Peck) Blodgett was born in November of 1916 in Hillsdale.

In 97 years, she lived through the Great Depression, saw electricity come to life, witnessed the first snow plow and saw a community change before her eyes.

Loraine has become the longest living member of the Boyceville Methodist Church and she heard that she could be the longest living high school graduate.

She was two or three years old when she remembers standing outside on the drive when her father pulled up in their first car.

“He drove right through and on his way out,” laughed Loraine. “He never said, but I suspect he didn’t know how to stop the thing”.

When Loraine was five years old the family moved to a farm surrounded by woodland located about a mile and a half out of Boyceville.

They had quite the farmstead with cattle, pigs, chickens and an extensive garden. Her mother canned and as a family they butchered their own meat, which kept them well fed all year round, even during the Depression.

Having extra food and wood around allowed George to give meals and provide a means of heat to the widows or poorer people around the area.

Loraine remembers one year there was a terrible snow storm that blocked all the roadways, so her father took her and her sister into town to stay with a friend. People would do that so their kids could make it to school still.

The mention of snow brought forth a memory of seeing the first snow plow. It was a wooden V that was pulled behind a team of horses. Eventually in the late 20’s early 30’s, the county got their first snow plow truck.

Upon moving to the area, George became a member of the Boyceville School Board. He in fact was one of two men to bring the first school bus to town.

George traveled to Indiana to get the bus along with a gentleman named “Wylie”. Wylie lived in Greytown and was a mechanic so he helped get the bus ready to go and then he ended up being the driver.

Instead of having to walk three or more miles, the bus was used to pick up kids that lived further out of Boyceville near the Connorsville area.

However, since Loraine lived closer to town, she walked all 12 years of school. In fact, she wasn’t able to start school until she was seven because she had to walk alongside her sister as a safety precaution.

She wore a wool skirt and some type of blouse or a wool dress every day with her wardrobe rotating about every three to four days.

Loraine remembers that there were two girls who wore fancier clothing because their family was a bit more well off due to one father being the mail carrier and the other worked as an interstate manager.

The students were able to wear what they wished to school, but there was one uniform that had to be worn during gym class. Loraine still has her blue one-piece with bloomers on the bottom.

Loraine went to school in the brick building that sat along Tiffany Creek, which is currently where the school sits today.

She painted a very vivid picture of the school, which was three stories, with first through sixth grade all on the main level and then upstairs there was a seventh through eighth class and then all four high school grades.

Also upstairs were the offices and the large assembly room were the freshman through senior grades each had a desk. This is where the principal gave announcements and different classes were taught such as algebra, geometry, and english.

And in the basement next to the furnace was the science room.

There were just four faculty members in that school during her time there including Mr. Panzenhagen, Miss Ainsworth, Mrs. Garrison and Mr. Kinney.

In school, girl’s sports were not a thing during that time, so she was not involved in any activity unless it was a ball game that happened outside of the classroom.

Her yearbook did list Forensics, Glee Club, Pep Club, “Chintz Cottage”, “Oh Susan”, Editor of Sophomore Gab, Annual Staff- Snapshot Editor, Senior Basketball team and W.C.T.U Contest.

Loraine was also in the band and played saxophone throughout high school. It was her father and Science Teacher, Mr. Stien that got band going again as it died off during the Depression.

All through school and into college, Loraine was very involved in art classes. Her artistic abilities have carried with her for 97 years as she still makes paintings today.

In fact, the trait seems to be in her blood as her son Scott is a well known artist in Portland. He not only creates things like ceramics, but he has also been a character artist and a director in various films.

In 1935, Loraine graduated as salutatorian of her class along side 25 other students. She was listed in her senior yearbook as “The biggest little girl from Boyceville” with a nickname of Larry.

After high school, Loraine attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she earned herself a teaching degree.

While doing so, she also taught in two-room country schools around Downing and Boyceville.

After earning her college credits, she taught in Colfax for three years and then was a substitute for Boyceville, Connorsville and Wheeler, which she did for many, many years.

When she wasn’t in the classroom, she spent time as the Librarian at the Public Library in town.

Aside from work, when Loraine was in her twenties she decided to marry a fellow by the name of Percy Blodgett.

She grew up knowing Percy her entire life as they attended the same Methodist Church and he spent time on the Peck family farm lending a helping hand.

When he left for the service, something just seemed to click in Loraine’s mind that she wanted to be with Percy. So when he came home on furlough in 1942, the two married in the Peck home.

Loraine still had schooling to finish up at River Falls for half a year, but once she was finished in June, she went to Ohio to be with Percy. Percy was working as a medic at what was Dennis University.

After a few months, the two moved back to Boyceville and bought a house in town. That only lasted a few months before they purchased land east of Boyceville.

That house and 270 plus acres is exactly where you can find Loraine today. She has lived in that location for 68 years inside the same house that was put there in the 1800’s.

The Blodgetts’ farmed the area around the woods with 19 head of cattle and plenty of crops. With Percy being in the service when the G.I. Bill went into effect, he was sent back to school so he enrolled in Agriculture classes in order to learn all the new farming rules.

They spent their lives farming and raising their four children; Frank, Ann, Beth and Earl.

Today, Frank and his family live in Alaska, Ann is in North Carolina, Beth is in Honduras, Scott is in Portland and Earl and his wife are living next door to Loraine.

Frank has two children and four grandchildren, Ann has two children and four grandchildren, Beth has one son and Earl has three kids.

Loraine shared that her family comes to visit once or twice a year and then her siblings will also make a trip to her home, which they did so over the Cucumber Festival week.

In her 97 years, Loraine has done a great deal of traveling herself with visits to Alaska and tours to almost every state in the U.S. have been made. Despite all her travels, Wisconsin is still her favorite state.

Today Loraine spends time running to town or to the Farmer’s Market. She loves to cook good ole fashion country meals and she will take out the paints or chalk from time to time and create something.