Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
January 1, 1998, Page 28
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Good Old Days
Compiled by Dee Zimmerman
Family Background of the Great Story,
“The Day They Gave Babies Away”
The heart warming story of a 12 year old boy, Robert Eunson, demonstrates how he had listened closely, to his dying mother’s words and carried out her commands. The father having previously died left Robert (Robbie), the oldest family member, to care for the younger children after their mother died. As the story relates, young Robert refused to be turned aside by the neighbors’ suggestions, he placed the children in homes where he thought they ought to be.
Robert always kept tabs on his brothers and sisters, who on the most part, turned out remarkedly well. They all looked very much alike, and others who knew them recognized something poignant in their love for each other, because they had nothing but love in common. As each grew up, he or she took on the characteristics and absorbed points of view of the foster parents.
Annabelle had become a great dowager with a home in California and one in Chicago. She ruled her children with an iron hand. Elizabeth taught school, then married, had two children and, after her husband died, became a house mother at a girl’s school.
Jane never married; she taught music lessons – voice – herself possessed a sweet contralto. She, of course, due to her young age at the time had no memory of the evenings ride on the sled up the river’s ice to her new home when two years old. But, Jane and Robert were always very close. As a boy, Dale Eunson remembered his Aunt Jane’s visits to their home in Neillsville. A fond memory was of Jane sitting at the piano singing, “In the Gloaming” and then breaking into “The Irish Washerwoman,” and his dad would leap to his feet with a real “Irish Jig” that made the furniture jump from the floor’s vibration. (Only we older people remember those songs, I’m sure. D. Z.)
James became a successful lawyer in Wisconsin, married and had three children. He and his brother Robert wrote each other regularly.
Kirk was the only tragedy amongst the six children. Life was too much of a struggle for him and he “took to drink” as his older brother used to say. Kirk died mysteriously when he was only twenty-six.
Robert himself, felt he needed no adoptive home at the age of 12, except what he could find in a lumbering camp. He went to work in the woods, growing up to be a very dependable man.
Eventually, Robert Eunson made his way to Clark County with his family. At first he was a farmer, living on what would later be known as the Schmidt farm south of Neillsville. Next, he moved to the Naedler farm next to Cunningham Creek and along Highways 95/73.
A short time later Eunson left farming, relocating to a little house in the 300 block on the south side of Fifth Street in Neillsville. The house was on the west side of Goose Creek and east side of the Claude Sturdevant home. (Some long-time residents remember Goose Creek running above ground, starting on the east side of Schuster Park making its descent in a northwesterly route through the city. In recent years, the stream has been diverted underground, running in a culvert system from East Second Street to a short distance west of the Grand Avenue Bridge where its waters feed into O’Neill Creek. D.Z.)
Eunson became a partner of Charles Crocker in a livery stable business which was located on the northwest corner of Grand Avenue and Fifth Street. The building was later occupied by the Stelloh Implement business. At the close of the implement shop, the building was razed to provide space for a new IGA food store and now is a parking lot for Bob & Caryl’s IGA business.
Dale Eunson, author of “The Day They Gave Babies Away,” was born in Neillsville on Aug. 15, 1904. His mother died when he was 15 months old. At that time Robert Eunson’s household was not organized to care for the baby. Arrangements were made that little Dale should go into the Sturdevant home. The Sturdevants were pleased with the little one being in their home from the start, eager to provide the care he needed.
Of his own childhood, Dale Eunson, while editor of the Cosmopolitan magazine related some people considered him a spoiled little boy, thinking he begged Neillsville shoppers for nickels to buy candy. But that is not quite the way it was according to Mrs. Sturdevant. She said Dale was a very winsome little child with large brown eyes and dark brown hair, and everybody took to him. Neillsville people who knew the Eunson family situation felt sympathy for the little boy whose mother had died.
They expressed their sympathy in a way which Dale could understand and appreciate – the buying of candy for him. Overeating candy, occasionally caused Dale indigestion and tummy aches.
As the Sturdevants loved the little boy in their home, so he loved them.
Though living in the Sturdevant home as a member of the family, Dale never lacked interest or attention from his own father. Robert Eunson was a great family man, who bestowed affection upon the members of his family. He was remembered as being kind and faithful to his family members.
Those who knew Robert Eunson well, remembered him as being exceedingly generous, a man who willingly helped others. However, he never wasted money upon himself, careful in his personal expenditures. His generosity stood in the way of any considerable accumulation of funds. His philosophy seemed to be “use money instead of hoarding it.”
In 1908, Eunson went into politics and was elected sheriff of Clark County. He left the livery business and moved his family out of the little house next to Goose Creek and into the sheriff’s residence at the county jail building.
Robert Eunson with son, Dale, during his term as Clark County Sheriff, 1908-1910
Also, Eunson married again, his wife being Jesse Romaine, a former Loyal resident, who owned a millinery shop on South Hewett Street. With a woman again in his home, Eunson took Dale back into the family fold. Dale remembered and revered his stepmother in one of the novels he wrote. Departing from the Sturdevants, Dale’s absence left a void in the couple’s lives.
Reading “The Day They Gave Babies Away” story, Mrs. Sturdevant remembered Robert Eunson repeatedly telling the story to them. The writer Dale held to the facts as his father had related them to him and the Sturdevants.
Robert Eunson got the western fever while he served as sheriff. He headed for a homestead in Montana a few weeks before his term as sheriff had expired in 1910. Dale grew up in Montana and at the age of 17 moved with the family to California. Eunson married twice and had seven children. Three of them died as infants. There Robert Eunson died in 1937 or 1938.
Prior to the family’s move to California, Dale, his father and stepmother returned to Clark County, visiting the Sturdevants and other friends.
It was Dale Eunson’s great interest in music and skillfulness at the piano that encouraged him to enter a business course. The knowledge gained in the course could enable him to learn how to get enough money to purchase the grand piano of his dreams, or so he thought. He found an opportunity in publicity work for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and later became private secretary to Rupert Hughes, the writer. Hughes gave Eunson the push that got him started in the writing business. While working for Hughes, Eunson wrote the short story, “Sun Dog” which was sold to the Woman’s Home Companion magazine. Thereafter Dale Eunson went to New York and became secretary to Ray Long, the editor of the Cosmopolitan magazine. Upon Long’s leaving the business, Eunson became associate editor, eventually giving up the position to devote himself exclusively to writing.
Most of Dale Eunson’s work was devoted to the short story line. However he did write a novel “Homestead” and ghosted “Arctic Adventure” for Peter Freuchaen. Also, he co-authored three plays – “Guest in the House,” “Public Relations” and “Leo,” the latter with his wife Katherine Albert.
Eunson’s work “The Day They Gave Babies Away” was the most widely acclaimed. As of the year, 1947, it was in its third printing by the publishers, Farrar, Straus & Co. The story was amazingly successful when first published in the Cosmopolitan, followed with a version on radio and later sold to a movie company.
During World War II Eunson returned to the Cosmopolitan as a fiction editor. Eunson was married to Katherine Albert in 1931, they had a daughter, Joan, to whom “The Day They Gave Babies Away” was addressed. The Eunson family returned to Neillsville when Joan was three years old. Visiting the Sturdevants home; brought back memories for Mrs. Sturdevant. It was a happy reunion and pleasure to her to see Dale as an adult. Seeing Joan with big brown eyes and brown hair, was much like the baby she had once taken into her arms and home.
A weekend in 1983 was designated a “Dale Eunson Days” in Neillsville, in honor of the nationally known author who revisited his hometown.
Highlight of the celebration, was an open house at the Clark County Historical Society’s Jail Museum. The local Historical Society unit sponsored the celebration and open house. Eunson autographed his books and met people of the area.
Sharing some of his fond boyhood memories, he recalled and told of riding on his Flyer sled from the jail building’s front door, sliding down the winter’s snow covered Fifth Street, through the Hewett and Grand intersections as far as Goose Creek. There wasn’t enough traffic at the intersections in those horse and buggy days to cause any safety problem.
Neillsville was prominently mentioned in his novel, “Upon the Rim.” It is a story of the hardships and experiences of a family which moved from Neillsville to homestead “up on the Rim” near Billings, Montana, in 1910.
Of all the Dale Eunson writings, a true story told to him by his father, Robert Eunson, inspired a masterpiece “The Day They Gave Babies Away.” It is a story from the heart – the heart of a man who as a 12 year old lad, became a man in a day, the day he gave his brothers and sisters away – a most difficult assignment in his life. D. Z.)
Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation.
Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
Nothing succeeds like a reputation.
Success in business depends partly on whether you keep your mind or your feet on the desk.
Southwest corner view of the Clark County Jail building on East Fifth Street (Now Historical Society Museum), Front ground floor portion was the sheriff’s residence for many years.
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