Memories of growing up in Huron and the early railroad have been combined in a new coffee table book, “Lives Well Lived: Stories of a Huron, SD Family,” that Mark Smith published with the idea to help two local nonprofits raise needed funds.
Smith gave 100 copes of the book to both the American Lutheran Church Christian Learning Center Preschool and museum director Rachel Farrell, which they can sell.
“If they don’t have any cost and sell these for $20 each, they can make some pretty good money,” Smith said. “That made sense to me.”
The book was printed for him at cost by Creative Printing and it was put together by Sara Opheim. He ordered 225 books, and gave 25 copies to family members, reserving 200 to benefit the two nonprofits.
To receive a copy of the book, contact the CLC Preschool at 353-8514 or Farrell at (605) 520-4489.
Smith is also a strong supporter of the S.D. State Railroad Museum located in Hill City, which offers a 2 CD set on the history of railroads and their families in the state. He is among those featured in the series.
“My family has 120 years of railroad history,” said Smith, who is featured in a 10-minute segment on the CDs. “It was really a lot of fun.”
Along with many of Smith’s memories in the book, are several stories written by his father, William Fredrick Smith Jr., of his years working with the railroad.
A picture of his father relaxing outside with his pipe is on the cover of the book, and the back cover has a picture of Smith holding his father’s hand while on his death bed.
“Dad always wanted his boys to know how his life and family were at that time, so he wrote many stories about his life,” Smith said. “It motivated me to write stories of growing up in Huron. I did it for my family, to have as a set of memories.”
His father had worked in Miller for the railroad, and many of the stories he wrote about those experiences are on display at the Railroad Depot Museum in Miller.
“Dad loved to tell stories, but he had a purpose,” Smith said. “They were out here isolated. I’m living in a home they built on land my grandfather bought in 1918.”
His grandfather owned half a block of land where he raised chickens, a dairy cow, and hunted and fished to help keep food on the table.
While their home seemed to be out in the boondocks at the time, they were only two blocks west of the fairgrounds.
“My dad and his buddy would go to the Game, Fish and Parks pond and throw lines over the fence and catch the trophy catfish,” Smith said. “They ended up eating the State Fair catfish. They hunted for food. It was sport, they loved it, but it was for food. He told me once if you ever took a shotgun shell, you had to bring back food. That was the rule. You didn’t miss.”
He remembers his father telling them stories about courting their mother, Laverne (Anderson) Smith, while working on the railroad in Miller.
“Mom would catch a train to Miller, they would spend the day, then go home back to Huron,” Smith said. “One day they found a justice of the peace in Wessington and decided to get married.”
Smith said they didn’t tell her parents about the union right away.
“My dad was terrified to meet her mother,” he added. “When they told her she broke down crying. He said he didn’t know if it was sadness or joy. It was hilarious. She was happy.”
Smith remembers big family gatherings every Saturday night, with everyone bringing something to share.
“It was a very family-focused group,” he said. “It’s just not like that anymore. That family focus is just gone, it’s not here. My grandfather settled here. His children all stayed here and had a successful life, but their children left. We all just scattered.”
Smith, who is 73, grew up with brothers, Scott and Mike.
“I was afraid that if I didn’t do this it would slip away,” said Smith, who began writing about his own memories of growing up in Huron a couple of years ago. Many of those stories were published in the Plainsman.
“Last summer then I went through dad’s stories,” he said. “My dad had a fabulous memory and I have a way of bringing back my memories. I didn’t want them to just fade away.”