While the State of South Dakota would be visible from a space station and the town of Kadoka would seem no larger than a fleck of dust, this state and that little town share the values that all human beings cherish, but to which most pay mere lip service.
My immigrant grandmother moved to Kadoka around 1920 and operated a general store there until the late 1930s. She was a very religious Jew. She had three daughters and a son who became my father. With one brief exception, a family named Margolies, my family was the only minority religion in a town that practiced Christianity as I have come to understand and appreciate it. They loved her, and she loved them.
When my Grandmother learned that in the town of Martin the businesses would charge Indians 10% of their $25 monthly allotment check for cashing the check and using it for merchandise, she thought it was not the right thing to do. Word got out that there was a different kind of woman running a store in Kadoka who would not charge that 10% fee. People drove 60 miles in open wagons and cold weather to grandmother’s store to save that 10%. She learned to speak Lakota – just as she did English – both with a Yiddish accent.
Grandma ate only kosher foods, and observed the Shabbat (sabbath) strictly. This meant no work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Seems hard to imagine for a small shopkeeper. You’d think that might have been impossible in that time and place, but she managed, with the help of neighbors and the help of a sister in Des Moines who sent her canned kosher meat.
I’ll continue this story in the coming days. In the meantime, what stories would you like to share about your family’s early days in SD?