The Halse Work Ethic

Week 36: #52 Ancestors – Work

By Eilene Lyon

I got my work ethic from my dad. We kids were expected to do a variety of chores (wash dishes, dust, set the table, clean the bathroom) from a very early age. We were given a generous allowance, too, so we also learned to manage our money.

Dad clearly got his work ethic from his parents, Everett Halse and Reatha Gusso. Everett grew up on a farm in Dexter Township, Codington County, South Dakota. He was one of eleven children. He only completed through the 8th grade in school, and most certainly would have had chores to do on the farm.

He was still living on his parents’ farm in 1920. In the 1925 South Dakota census, when he was 24 years old, Everett stated his occupation was “well digger.” By 1930, he was a truck driver.


A load on Everett’s truck. Unknown man standing by the truck.

According to Reatha, “When I first knew Everett he owned and operated Florence Truck Line – He owned a South Dakota Franchise. He picked up and delivered anything from farmers & stores in the towns of Florence, Wallace, Bradley and Webster from & to Watertown. He came to my parents home to pick up a crate of young rooster chickens to sell for my parents. He first asked me for a date on August 13, 1931.”

He was 30, she was just 15. They were married on December 31, 1932.


A photo of Reatha and Everett Halse, early in their marriage. Florence, South Dakota. Note that Everett is wearing a suit coat over a pair of work overalls!

Reatha had her share of duties at home growing up, as well. She had to help with laundry and ironing, for example. Though she was soon a mother, she had a job by 1934, when the couple was hired to run one of the two cream testing stations in Florence. Farmers brought in their milk which Reatha tested for butterfat content. She would then pay the farmer for the milk, which would be picked up by the creamery truck from Webster.

Everett was also trained and licensed to do the testing, but he was usually either trucking or running a road grader for the state highway department. They were also given a small apartment in the back of the cream testing station. It was served by an outhouse in the yard.


Everett with the road grader. South Dakota.

In 1942, the Halse family moved to Oregon where Everett began working for Medo-land Creamery. He also drove a truck for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Later, he spent 10 years trucking for Clemson Forest Products. His career came to an end with his first heart attack in 1956, though he sometimes worked as a watchman at Clemson.


Everett with the P.M.T. truck he drove for the Southern Pacific Railroad, 1944, Corvallis, Oregon.

Reatha then took the helm, going to work at J. C. Penney’s. She worked at the store in downtown Corvallis until 1960. From then until retirement, she had a job in the chemistry supply room at Oregon State University.


Reatha working at J. C. Penney’s in 1959, Corvallis, Oregon.

Everett died on July 15, 1961 at the age of 60, caused by his third heart attack. Reatha was only 45 at the time, so she still had many years of working ahead of her. Their four sons all took jobs with the Corvallis Gazette-Times during their school years. The three oldest boys were graduated from the University. The youngest, Nathan, unfortunately never got out of the marines, though he had planned to attend the University as well.


Everett in 1959, probably at Clemson Forest Products, Corvallis, Oregon.

The oldest son, Treslin, became a pharmacist and had his own shop in Reedsport, Oregon. My dad was in ROTC at the University and became an officer in the U. S. Army for 20 years. Later he worked in materials management for a couple different hospitals in the eastern U. S. My other uncle went into education. He taught business classes (such as typing and bookkeeping) and coached the girls tennis team at a high school in Oregon until his retirement.

Feature image: Everett’s truck and the cream testing station in Florence, South Dakota.

17 thoughts on “The Halse Work Ethic

Add yours

  1. I don’t think the load in the that first picture would make it past a dot inspection. Nowadays he’d be out of business with fines. They certainly mad it happen back then. Thanks for sharing.


  2. The snow in that first picture! I zoomed in but couldn’t see what was inside the door. It’s a shame Everett had a bad heart and died young, or does that seem young to us today and was normal at the time? 45 is young for a widow, did Reatha remain alone? My grandmother did, so did my ma-in-law and I’ve a friend too, never remarried after early widowhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Our families sound more similar all the time — I guess it’s that Midwest spirit! Something needed done, they just did it.
    I had family in Watertown, my parent’s farm was in Bruce, and I was born at the hospital in Clear Lake.

    Liked by 1 person

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