Edmond Broberg

Edmond Broberg was born in 1921 on a farm in rural Pillsbury Township, Swift County, Minnesota. He and his four other siblings attended a local country school during the early to mid-1930s. Edmond did not go on to attend high school, instead working on the farm with his father. Because he was the only healthy brother at home, Edmond received a deferment from military service during World War II. After the war, Edmond married Maybelle Ortenblatt and moved to his own farm in 1946. Together, Edmond and Maybelle raised six children and lived and worked on the farm until 1983.

In this interview, Edmond goes into detail about his life and his farm work. He shares personal recollections of wartime price controls and their impact on farming, and recounts his experience with the draft. The interwoven community of farm life and family life is a recurring theme in his story.

First Hearing About the War

I remember we were over to Lloyd Carlson’s—that was a guy that we knew pretty well, I and my cousin. We were over there on a Sunday morning. We had done our chores over there. He was in the [Twin] Cities. We went to church, and we heard it when we got to church. That was the first we knew about it. Everybody was all worked up about it, I guess.

DB: What was your initial reaction when you heard the news?

I didn’t like it too well, because the guy that was with me was my cousin, he was gonna leave in January [1942] anyway. He’d already been drafted. So, he left in January. My brother left in February.

DB: Were you worried about the service yourself at all?

Well, was sort of in a way, but I got deferred usually for farm work. Was pretty close one time that I didn’t get deferred, but they only gave me two months. After that, then the governor said they couldn’t take no more farm boys. So, then I got by.

Farming Machinery and the Black Market

DB: You talk about putting your name in for new machinery and stuff like that. Where would you go, how would you get on these lists that people talk about? I don’t even know.

They’d put your name down, see, and it’s your turn ‘til they got to you. But after a while that turned like everything the government has anything to do with—it turns into they start a black market. So, somebody would be around and didn’t have one, and they would get a hold of someone. And then you could buy from them, pay a lot more.

DB: Was that pretty common, do you think?

Pretty common, yeah.

DB: So, there were a lot of guys paying extra money to try to get stuff through black market.

They did, too. Money under the table. [laughs]

DB: Was it so common that you saw it all on your farm? Or you guys didn’t get involved in that at all?

We never bought anything like that.

DB: How did you guys feel about it then, that you saw other people getting machinery when you guys had to wait?

We knew who it was, so we didn’t bother with them. Those in implement, too, would sort of help you out if they knew you well. Like my cousin, he was in implement here and I wanted a plow, because I was just starting. He said, “I’ll get you a plow.” He did. But he never brought it there; he brought it right out there to the farm. He just brought it out there.

We got a tractor that way too, once. We drove up to Sunburg and got that. And people looked—I rode through town with that new tractor, and they looked. [laughter]That was really fun.

DB: Was there any resentment, do you think, amongst people that some people were getting other stuff or that people were paying money to get stuff black market-wise? Or was just it just kind of accepted as that’s just the way things were? 

Well, we expected that sort of thing. That’s what happens.

Writing Letters to Relatives in the Military 

DB: Who did you correspond with during the war?

My brother and cousin.

DB: You had a cousin that was in the service as well, too?

Two of ‘em, at least two.

DB: Do you remember where they were at all, or what branch of the service they were in?

Yeah. Lowell was in the medical. He was over in Italy and there. [unclear] Bernie was in Germany and all over, I guess.

Unidentified Speaker: Wasn’t he in Northern Africa too, France, Normandy?

Yeah, he was in quite a few places. He claimed he could have gone through Berlin before the Russians, but that they didn’t let him.

DB: So what kind of information would they send you? I know they were limited in what they were able to tell.

If they did write something, it was crossed out anyways. It didn’t go. You’d try to ask them a question and they’d try to answer it, but it was not very good.

DB: All you’d get back was either stuff that was very vague or a lot of black places on the letter, huh?

Marked out.

His Brother on Furlough 

DB: Were there any changes in church there that you noticed during the war?

I suppose there was a difference all right.

DB: Do you remember the pastor talking about it at all during his sermons?

Oh, he’d mention it some, yeah. Some of the boys going, he would have ‘em come up. Especially my brother, he would always get up and talk when he got home. He’d have him get up and tell some about being gone. But he wouldn’t call on everybody, because he’d wouldn’t do—[unclear] [laughs]

DB: Some people were in line to get up there. What kinds of things would your brother talk about?

Tell us where he was. He couldn’t tell too much. At least let us know he was okay.

DB: How many times did he get home during the war, do you remember?

I think it was four. Yeah, he was pretty lucky that way. He got transferred from one thing to next, then he’d get a furlough probably, sometimes. But one time he came home and he wasn’t really supposed to come home, but they were allowed so many days, and he just took a chance and came. If he’d been called to come back, boy, he’d have been nervous then. [crosstalk] He was excited before he got going, so he got off. He didn’t want to come late. [laughs]

DB: It seemed like a lot of guys kind of stretched what they were supposed to do during those furloughs to try to get home.

Yeah. His girlfriend was here, you know, and he was engaged.

DB: So, he wanted to get back to see her, too?

Oh yeah, as much as he could.