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Co-op roots run deep

Historical magazine cover from December 1955 and Slagh family then and now
On the cover, 12-year-old Vernon Slagh and his mother, Thelma, and the two of them in their later years (top right). Both have since died, Vernon in 2013 and Thelma in 2009. Center photo: Thelma and her late husband, Gerrit. Bottom photo: The Slaghs' grandson, Chris Backhaus, a lineworker for Slope Electric Cooperative, and his family.

by Clarice L. Kesler
For this month’s Recipe Roundup, we took a trip back in time and searched for recipes to help us celebrate the 75th anniversary of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives or NDAREC. They’re the folks who publish this magazine on behalf of the state’s electric and telecom cooperatives.

On our journey to the past, we came across holiday recipes in a cover story from December 1955 featuring Gerrit and Thelma Slagh. The Slaghs, members of KEM Electric Cooperative at the time, lived on a dairy farm near Strasburg. 

Today, the Slaghs’ children live nearby. Their co-op roots run deep. Daughter Joann and her husband, Milo Dyk, live on a farm south of Strasburg. Their grandson, Brandon Dyk and his family, moved to the homestead where his great-grandparents, the Slaghs, originally lived. They are all members of KEM Electric Cooperative.

The Slaghs’ other daughters, Betty, and husband, Bud Kuhn, and Vicki, and husband, Bill Backhaus, live in Bismarck and sister-in-law, Alice, lives by Lincoln; all are members of Capital Electric Cooperative. And Vicki’s son, Chris, is a lineworker for Slope Electric Cooperative in New England.

Vicki tells us that the magazine feature story reveals more than original ingredients. Along with turkey, homemade bread dressing and Dutch pumpkin pie made from scratch, it shows how the new product, electricity, changed their lives.

“I know that the electric stove was something our mom really enjoyed and it made her life much easier, but for Dad, it was a real game changer,” says Vicki, adding that laborious chores like grinding feed and hauling water became a thing of the past once electricity came to the farm. Gerrit Slagh is also featured in the recipe story along with then General Manager George Cornog, who proudly tours the farm with Gerrit, to show off electricity and its many uses.

In the house, Vicki says that her mother’s meals came straight from the heart. 

“Any holiday included not only family but extended family and became a festive feast,” Vicki says. Fixings included homemade bread, turkey, ham, potatoes, vegetable, salads and of course, pie. At these meals, families sat around the table all together where they said grace and gave thanks.

And just as the Slaghs did more than 60 years ago, we hope you enjoy these homemade, heartfelt, holiday recipes from the past. And join us in being thankful for electricity and how it improves the quality of life in North Dakota.


Clarice Kesler is the communications manager for North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives.