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A sketch of the life of Joseph Mettel

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A sketch of the life of Joseph Mettel
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson 56482

I was very fortunate to have had Joseph Mettel as my neighbor for 21 years, the only stupid thing on my part was that although we discussed many things I was not into the history thing in those days so never talked very much about the old-time Wadena, which of course today would be number one on my agenda.

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Jeane and I moved to 215 Bryant Avenue Southwest in Wadena in the fall of 1951 and Joe and Clara Mettel lived across the street at 202 Bryant Avenue Southwest -- the home later occupied by Bill and Audrey Stearns. They were wonderful neighbors.

At age 5, my son Bob had Joe Mettel as a best friend. He would always take Bob out to the farm with him to help him do some job. Later on, Joe hired my daughter Sally and Bob to trap pocket gophers for him on his farm just west of town, the Carter addition in 2009. Joe would pay them 25 cents for each gopher caught and with the matching bounty from the county they did pretty well. Later, our two youngest, Molly and Jean, would go to Mettels every Friday night to play cards with Joe and Clara. They had a certain ritual which they followed. When the first arrived Molly would have to play the piano, usually playing Joe's favorite piece "How Much is the Doggy in the Window," then they would adjourn to the kitchen and play a game of Old Maid. Jean said that Joe and Molly paired up against she and Clara and that she thought Joe and Molly cheated as they always seemed to beat the other two. Then after the game they went back to the living room to watch TV.

Joe said one time, "Clara is a little close with money. I told her, Clara if you want something, buy it, we can afford it. But she almost never did."

The other incident that tickled me was when Andy Skei asked Joe why he always chewed his cigar and never smoked it. He said, "Joe, if I had your money I'd smoke the darned things."

Joe died in 1973 at the ripe old age of 90 years. I asked him one time what he was going to do with the farms that he owned and he said, "Nothing, I'll let somebody else worry about that."

I was going to continue with the Mettel story but in doing research I came across an article written by Harald Boen back in the 1960s which tells the story much better than I could so am substituting that. Enjoy!

Joseph Mettel, 81, one of Wadena's most prominent and substantial citizens, had stiff competition from the day he was born. Anton appeared on the scene at the same time as his twin brother and thus forcing the divided attention of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Mettel. That was a natural affliction in the early days of his life and one of the amusing incidents of his youthful career that has long since been regarded as one of the inspirations which put him into the business of herding the village's 56 cows in a broad expanse of wild onion infested "prairie" just beyond the school house.

Everybody kept a milk cow in those days and so for $1 per head per month at the age of 14, he had become something of a capitalist. He gathered the cows up early each morning to tend on the unfenced ground, dutifully drove across the south end of town to the creek for water at noon and then to another pasture in that vicinity to remain until time to bring them home at night.

Says Joe: "You see, Tony liked to sleep later in the morning," and so never did become involved in the dull and boresome task of herding cows. He got a more refined job at the Merchants Hotel in 1906, menial though it might have been, and went on from there to manage or own some of the best hotels in Canada's principle cities. He became a highly successful "mine host" and is now living in retirement in Vancouver, British Columbia, but never fails to pay a brotherly visit periodically to the old home town.

Thus did their start in life take off on different tangents in no way related one to the other but with the end result the same -- success.

Joe's boyhood activities were studded with many occupations to earn a little money and at the time this writer made his acquaintance in 1912 he was operating a saloon in the building he now owns and occupied by the Banquet Bakery. By 1914, saloons were voted out of Wadena and Mr. and Mrs. Mettel promptly opened a variety store that was to continue until 1937.

Joe's stature as an astute business man was evidenced in many ways and he was elected a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank in 1924, a position he holds today. More than that he became vice president to serve for many years but finally retired at his own request. His friendly and amiable disposition resulted in a wide acquaintance that later was to be tested to the utmost in 1930 when he became a candidate for office as a member of the public school board.

Next week read about how Joseph Mettel was elected despite a religiously divided community.

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