Living a long and active life
HURON — If there is one key to living a long and healthy life, Stanley Martens, who celebrates his 100th birthday Thursday, says it is staying active.
“I never had a sitting job,” Martens said. “I was a farmer and rancher by Wessington. I stayed active all my life.”
An open house for Martens 100th is planned from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at 1376 Nevada Ave. S.W., a home he shares with Joan Hull, who is 94.
“She’s just a kid alongside me,” he added, laughing.
Hull said it was a blessing when he appeared at her door with suitcases in hand. “He said I’m here to stay, and he’s helped me ever since,” she said. “His mother needed a lot of help, his wife needed a lot of help, and his friend needed help — he was there for all of us. It’s a blessing he is here. I wouldn’t have been able to stay in my home.”
Even at 100, Martens still helps with cooking, mows the lawn and handles snow removal, as well as helping care for Hull.
“I’ve enjoyed life,” he said. “It’s interesting to see the future. Right today, I’m happy.”
Martens was born Aug. 17, 1923, in the Drake Hotel in Wessington, which doubled as a hospital for the local doctor.
Growing up on the farm taught him the value of working hard, but there was fun as well on weekly trips into Wessington where his parents sold cream and eggs. “What that bought for groceries is what you got,” he added.
“We could go along to town and they would turn us loose,” Martens said. “When we were little we always used to go to the railroad station We used to run around in there. It was a great life.”
After graduating from high school he tried to join the Army. While he passed his physical in Minneapolis, he was deferred because he was the only son in the family.
“I was just out of high school when the war was on,” said Martens, who helped with the war effort on the farm. “The government bought straw, alfalfa and hay. We were paid 2 cents per bale. We made about $5 a day, that’s 250 bales. Lots of it went to paper factories.
“Have you ever looked for a job getting 2 cents per bale? It was heavy work,” he said. “They were glad to have a job to buy groceries.”
When he was younger much of the farm work was done with horses and mules, although Martens said he can remember when tractors began taking over the fieldwork.
“Farmers would take their horses in to trade for a tractor at John Deere in Huron,” he said. “We kept the horses for them on our farm.”
Martens remembers the telephone party line, which was operated by a women in Wessington who sat in front of the control board every day. “Our line had eight phones, our number was three shorts,” he said. “If someone had trouble they gave 12 shorts — everyone would come to help.”
Their farm was hooked up to electricity in 1948, replacing the kerosene lights they had relied on.
Radio and television helped connect the world at large, enabling them to watch as mankind took the first steps on the moon and gave them front row seats to news from around the globe.
Martens said he has never allowed himself to get bogged down in grumbling or feelings of envy.
“I never really ever was downcast about anything because I knew things would change,” he said. “Way back in the 1920s when my folks got married, everything was going really well and then came the ‘30s. They were hard times. When everything got better it was in the late 1940s when we could raise something.
“The world changed right along with everything else,” he added. “About every 20 years it will all be different.
He and his late wife, Marylou, had three children, Bob of Minnetonka, Minn., Scott of Watertown and Steve of Huron. He has 11 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchildren.
“I’m always happy,” Martens said. “I’m not a jealous person. If another farmer was doing really good, it didn’t bother me. What was, was. I’ve never been one to be downcast.”