The sprawling land near county roads 101 and 24 was cultivated to grow apples in several small orchards, sweet corn, potatoes, squash, cabbage, strawberries and more. With a glimmer of pride in his eyes, Roger Trittelwitz shares his fondest memories of his father, Charlie. “I’ve never been able to figure out how he made as much money as he spent,” he says. “He always had a convertible and a truck, and he only farmed, to my knowledge.”
Managing the 140-acre farm certainly was no small undertaking. “I can just barely remember this because it ended just as I was getting old enough to help before it was modernized,” says Trittelwitz, who was born in 1934 as the youngest of five children. “On one occasion, my dad filled the back seat and trunk of the Chevrolet with crates of strawberries. In those days, a crate was 24 quarts. We took them down to the farmers market in Minneapolis before 6 a.m., because my dad wanted to get a good parking spot. There was hardly anyone there, so he took us up to a little restaurant in a house on a hill for breakfast. When we came back, there was a guy standing there who must have been from a grocery chain, because he bought everything we had. All I know is that we got back home so early that my mother and sisters were still milking cows.”
Along with tending the produce, Trittelwitz says he and his siblings (who all graduated from Wayzata High School) also were responsible for pitching in with the livestock and harvesting wheat. “We were all raised on that farm, so we all had to do the work.”
On the property, the family had what they referred to as the “big barn” and the “little barn.” The big barn, just a 200-foot walk from the main house, was where the 32 dairy cattle were cared for, even into the mid-1950s, when Trittelwitz and his brother took the reins on the farm. In the basement of the little barn were upwards of 100 egg-laying chickens and, in the cold winter months, the space functioned as a warm bedding area for calves. A separate building next to the little barn also housed pigs.
The main house cost Trittelwitz’s grandfather a mere $3,000 to build in 1904. It was spacious enough to hold many family gatherings through the years, like Christmas dinners and summer picnics. The original three-story layout included the master bedroom, summer kitchen, dining room and living room on the main floor, plus four bedrooms on the second floor and access to a widow’s walk through the attic. It isn’t exactly clear when the house was equipped for electricity, but Trittelwitz says it was “before his time.” Modern plumbing was installed in 1945; in 1946, insulation was blown into the walls to trap the heat from the furnace and stove.
Aside from the seasonal wheat-harvesting get-togethers, Trittelwitz says his parents, both of German heritage, tried to stay out of the town’s spotlight. “They just lived kind of a quiet life. They didn’t get involved with township meetings, although they always voted,” he says. “They were more behind-the-scenes people.”
The one event he says they always made sure to attend were the monthly 500 Card Club meetings in the winter. After their daily chores were done, they’d get cleaned up and head to a neighbor’s house to socialize. “That was one thing they really enjoyed, and I remember they did that for many years. It didn’t make any difference how cold it was; if it was card club night, they went!”
The house has gone through several renovations in the past 100 years, but remains strikingly true to what it once was. Although his siblings are no longer living, they were all able to see some renovations as they occurred if they were able to make it home.
“We were all really pleased that the house was restored—and updated the way it was—to look a lot like it did when we were young,” Trittelwitz says.