Decades later, Brovold's vision lives on at apple orchard
Norman Brovold lived through the Great Depression and his experiences led him to develop an apple orchard in Alberton so “no one would go hungry.” Norman and his family celebrated the orchard and what it’s meant to the community with an event last Friday. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
By MONTE TURNER
Last Friday was a splendid autumn afternoon for returning to an annual event that has been dearly missed in Alberton.
Fridays are not normal days for Alberton School who holds class Monday through Thursday, but this was homecoming and was being celebrated through football and a parade down Railroad Street.
About three dozen teachers, parents, grandparents and children walked from the school to the Brovold Orchard just as it was done years ago when Norman Brovold opened up his orchard for students to come and pick apples and then make cider from his press.
So many residents remember the day each year when they were students because of the fun it always generated.
While the kids are meant to have fun, they are learning about the harvesting and juicing process on a small scale.
Brovold purchased the property in 1952 when it was known as the Rosehill Tourist Court and had 12 rental cabins.
Long before Interstate 90 was built and Highway 10 ran along the Clark Fork, Alberton was a well known railroad town. He planted trees, apple trees, and lots of them scattered throughout his 100 acres.
Bob Summerfield, his son-in-law and now the owner of Brovold Orchards with his wife, Jeanne (Brovold), explained Norman Brovold’s vision.
“Norman grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin during the Great Depression and it was rough. Rougher on a farm where neighbors tried to help each other but had nothing to help with. A person could actually go to jail for picking an apple no matter how hungry they were.
"Norman was determined not to let anyone in Alberton go hungry as long as he had apples.”
At 91 years old, he still lives there with Jeanne as his primary caregiver and Bob, along with their son Jason, doing the heavy lifting of maintenance on the property.
Why this treasured day disappeared isn’t quite known, but it’s been some time since it occurred. “This is my fourth year here and it’s been long before that. But I’ve heard about this day from so many people and we’re so glad it has come back!” said Mica Clarkson, principal of Alberton School.
Christina Wekkin is a teacher at Alberton and a granddaughter of Norman.
The event appeared to have rekindled with her input to Bob and Jeanne who had coffee with Clarkson and what was once a favorite day for the school was redesigned into a Family Community Event.
The orchard has several varieties of apples along with pears, plums, apricots and even Concord grapes but the focus remains on apples and apple cider.
Laura Acker with PEAK (Promoting Excellence in Alberton Area Kids) was on the scene with a ‘build your own scarecrow’ which the families took home, or she delivered in the back of her truck.
PEAK is a non-profit that is constantly enhancing the quality of life such as the skate park and now resurfacing the tennis courts.
“And on Oct. 10 we are showing the movie 'Hocus Pocus' outside on the school wall with a family scavenger hunt on Oct. 24,” she said.
Because of Norman's age everyone wore masks even though everything was outside. But thanks to Title 1, paint, brushes and cotton masks were provided as everyone painted the front with their own design and then strapped them on for the day.
Picking the apples consisted of a 10-foot pole apple-picker or kids on shoulders. After a couple of boxes were filled by the group, off to the cider press where Jason explained the process.
“We’re putting the fruit in this first bin of water that has a little bleach to kill any bugs and then rinsing them off in this next water bin,” he said. “I’ll scoop some out and put them in the press where I’ll twist the handle to squeeze out the cider. You all better come up close and take a look,” while a minor mob obeys his instructions.
Sampling the cider created all different sounds of delight from adults and children as the day was successful and will be memorable for all, including Norman who sat back in the shade next to his house with a beam of contentment.
“When Jeanne and I took over earlier this year we had lots of work to do as the place was in need of a good cleanup,” said Bob. “But as we were hauling stuff to the dump and trimming branches, we started a discussion about bringing this day back for the kids and Norman. And now that it’s happened, we have some other plans for the future we’ll be working on.”