Some good brotherly advice

Published 7:08 am Saturday, March 9, 2019

One hundred and thirty years ago George A. Hormel wrote a letter to his youngest brother Ben. His counsel to the young man, who was 11 at the time, reminded me of the wisdom of the good old days that parents often lay on their children.

George was 17 years older than Ben, so I am sure he felt the common notion that younger siblings often have more conveniences and privileges than the older members of a family.

The letter is dated March 26, 1889, and is written on Friedrich & Hormel Butchers & Packers letterhead. Ben must have requested that George, who was by this date a business man in Austin, send him a gift in the form of a watch.

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George replied, “I would like to send you a watch and chain, but not until Christmas (remember, the letter is dated March). Don’t you think you can wait that long? It would be much nicer then because children always wait for Santa Claus. Don’t you wait for him too?”

He also encouraged Ben to do his school work. “But you must get your lessons well in school. Study geography and arithmetic … and learn to spell good. When I was a boy like you I never had little wagons and things to play with and I used to have to study real hard in school so Father would buy me a saw and make a saw buck so we could saw wood before and after school. Golly! but that was lots of fun. Henry would get on his knees and pull the saw down, and I would pull it up again. Sometimes a sliver would catch in the saw. The saw would stop short, then I would bump my chin and nearly bite my tongue off. It was lots of fun I tell you. You don’t have such fun now, do you? Natural gas spoiled it all. That is too bad.”

Within a few years of this letter, Ben arrived in Austin to begin his 50-year career in the company his wise older brother had started. He must have taken his brother’s wisdom to heart as his obituary described him as “possessed of skill and sound judgment.” It also said that “he was a kind, gentle, warm-hearted man, with an unfailing and bubbling sense of humor that endeared him to all who counted him a friend, and his friends were legion.”

It is obvious that George’s influence on his brother lead to a successful life for Ben. So keep on giving advice to those in your sphere. Your words can guide others to success.

History Happy Hour: Bizarre History of Minnesota presented by author and researcher Chad Lewis

5:30 p.m. social, 6 p.m. presentation Monday, March 11

Free for members of the HHH, Mower County Historical Society and Friends of the Library. $5 for non-members Light Snacks and Cash Bar included.