By Ruth Vinkemeier
My memories of the South St. Paul stockyards date back to when I was a little girl.
My Dad would take six hogs down to be sold and I would accompany him.
When he went to get the check, I would page through beautiful National Geographic magazines, made available to those in the waiting area.
I got new pencils for school with the words "Percy Vittum" inscribed on them.
Once, a few years ago, my husband, Dennis, bought a large number of feeder steers. We hauled them home throughout the night from the stockyards — averaging one round trip every three hours.
My mother Addie, a widow of 85 years of age, was so curious as to what the stockyards were like in the dead of night, she went with us!
By John Grass Jr.
My fond memories of the South St. Paul stockyards began in 1959. I showed the Reserve Grand Champion barrow at the 4-H Junior Livestock Show.
My spotted Poland China barrow was sold in the MLBA 4-H Auction for $187.50 to Layton Henderson of Doughboy Feeds.
In 1960 I had a Reserve Grand Champion barrow again and it was also sold to Doughboy Feeds.
In 1961, my last year of 4-H, I decided to try showing a beef steer. My Dad bought me a red Shorthorn steer that I named Shorty.
He won a trip to the Junior Livestock Show and helped me win Reserve Champion Beef Showmanship.
Other memories are of sleeping on army cots in the school gyms. I still have the ticket to the party at the Hollywood Theater dated Oct. 3, 1960, courtesy of the South St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.
Many of the kids I met at the Junior Livestock Show are still friends to this day.
By Greg Gergen
Formerly of Dakota County, Minn.
In the days when we raised fewer cattle we would drive them to the stockyards 10 at a time in our own truck or in Uncle Paul’s Ford F600.
Going to the stockyards was absolutely great. I thought it was just the greatest place in the world to have fun.
I remember going up with my dad and my brother Tom. We would leave for the stockyards very early — perhaps 4:30 a.m.
Even on the longest days of summer we would make our way to South St. Paul in the dark.
The early 1960s was our prime years for marketing our cattle through the South St. Paul stockyards.
The stockyard existed as a place where cattle could be held in pens where they could be viewed and purchased by the large slaughter houses located in and around the area.
In fact, most of the cattle were herded right from the stockyard to the slaughter house without being trucked.
It was quite an amazing place. I would guess the entire stockyard was about one mile by one-half mile large.
It was made almost entirely of wood-fenced pens of all sizes and a series of alleyways between the pens. A steady parade of cattle would be herded to and from each pen.
Each pen would have some sort of watering trough and hay feeder. Atop the fences were little flat stands where a few bales of hay could be stacked.
Above it all was a catwalk that allowed you to view the entire area. On arriving at the stockyard, we would immediately register our presence and back the truck up to the unloading barn.
The barn was a large shed with about 10 loading docks on the first floor and the offices for the stockyard on the second.
The offices were on one end only. An interior door led out of the offices and over the loading docks and onto the catwalks.
As soon as we could get a dock we would unload.
From there Tom and I would watch as they herded our cattle to one of the holding pens. There they would stay until one of the commission men, usually Bob Grueber, negotiated the sell of our cattle with one of the large meatpacking companies.
Once Tom and I knew where our cattle were and thus where dad would be doing business, we went on a livestock sight-seeing tour.
Our first move was to the bull pens. We wanted to scout out the biggest and meanest bulls we could find.
We were fascinated by their size and disposition.
From there we would head up to the catwalks and walk the entire yard.
Although the stockyards generally specialized in fatted cattle, there was every size, shape, age and sex of cattle, swine and sheep.
We wanted to see all of them and everything. It was an active place as cattle were herded here and there.
Screaming hogs were herded up the wide cement ramps that led to the Armour slaughterhouse.
A small front-end loader loaded a fleet of small dump trucks with manure.
It was as if all the livestock in Minnesota could be viewed all at once in one place.
I remember one time in particular. After Tom and I had surveyed all parts of the stockyard, we decided to view the incoming livestock. We headed to the docks and watched the trucks pull in and unload.
It wasn’t long before one of the men from the office came by and took us to the office. In retrospect, he did this to prevent the possibility of us getting run over.
We didn’t see it that way, we were now being held captive. As soon as that guy left our sight Tom signaled me and we made a break.
We didn’t know it at the time, but apparently dad had been looking all over for us and had even made an announcement over the public address system. Just as soon as we made our way out of the office door, across the catwalk, we ran into our dad, who I guess was heading to the office in order to get some help in the search. He knew nothing of our ordeal but was glad to see us, and we were even more glad to see him.