Reaching a milestone

Mike Milbrandt
Milton Hoidal will be celebrating his 100th birthday on Friday, August 7.

Attaining the age of 100 years is a special milestone; although not necessarily rare, it is uncommon enough to be noteworthy. In two weeks, Milton Hoidal of Montevideo will reach that milestone.

Milton was born on August 7, 1920, near Big Bend. “My parents were farmers,” said Milton.

It is safe to say that, for most people alive today, it is impossible to imagine what growing up on a farm was like in the 1920s and 1930s. Many things we take for granted today did not exist when Milton was growing up.

Many farmers farmed with horses, and farms did not have electricity. Rural roads were sketchy at best, and farm wives sewed clothes for their families. Rural schools were often one-room school houses.

“We grew crops,” said Milton, “and we had cows and pigs. We also had a Model A Ford which we went to high school in!”

Milton attended high school in Holloway. “We had such a good school in Holloway, for such a little town. There were 20 kids in my class, and there were several rooms and several teachers,” he said.

While in high school, Milton enjoyed sports. “I liked basketball, but we had a coach who was no good. He had to get somebody from town to coach who knew more about basketball than he did!” laughed Milton. “I played basketball all four years of high school.”

According to Milton, Holloway is holding an all-school reunion in September. “I’ve got the invitation on my fridge, but I don’t think I’ll go,” he smiled.

By the time Milton graduated from high school, world events were taking a turn for the worse. If having lived through the Great Depression wasn’t enough, the year 1939 saw Germany invade Poland, touching off World War II.

Milton answered the call to serve his country, and on July 20, 1942 he enlisted and served in the Marine Corps. He said: “I was sent to New Zealand; that’s where I trained. It’s the nicest country I’ve ever been in!”

Milton was a mechanic in the 2nd Division. “My division went to Tarawa, where they had 85 percent casualties,” he said. “I didn’t get there; I was in charge of pulling supplies off ships and sending them on to Tarawa. Tarawa was the worst battle of the whole war!”

The 2nd Division was disbanded and Milton was assigned to the 3rd Division, which went on to Guadalcanal. He said: “I was in Guadalcanal long enough to catch Malaria. I had it real bad and was in the hospital for 32 days. The first week I didn’t even know where I was!”

After being released from the hospital, Milton returned to his mechanic’s position. “I worked on Jeeps, Dodge pickups, and big 6x6 trucks. The first thing I did after being released from the hospital was to fix two engines, which no one knew how to fix. I figured out what was wrong and had to send out for parts. Once I got those parts, I was able to get those engines going,” he said.

Milton’s unit was also sent to Guam in support of the battle there. “I was at Guam for 32 days,” he said.

He served through the end of the war, eventually getting sent home on his first furlough and being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps on November 21, 1945.

After the war, Milton returned to live in Holloway, but he continued to suffer from the after effects of his bout with Malaria. He said: “I lived in an apartment above a garage, and the man who ran the garage would help me up the stairs if I had an attack.”

While in Holloway, Milton served as the Chief of Police. “I did that for just a year. I had a chance to buy a shipping association in Montevideo, and it paid ten times the money,” he said. “I bought the Co-op Shipping Association and ran it for six years.”

He also worked for the GTA seed plant in Montevideo, where he was the plant manager. Milton said: “I worked for GTA until they were sold out. Some of the employees went to Sioux Falls, and some went to Willmar where there were GTA plants, but I didn’t want to leave Monte. I kind of liked it here!”

Milton has been married to his wife, Eileen, for 70 years. He related the story about how he met her. “My brother was going out with one of her sisters, and they, along with Eileen, picked me up at Fairfield Church in Holloway. We went together, oh, it wasn’t over a year or so, and then we got married. She was a Schliemann, and there were six Schliemann girls; she’s the only one left. She’ll be 93 in September,” he said.

Together, Milton and Eileen raised four children; one son and three daughters. They also have 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, with one on the way!

After working for GTA, Milton worked for a company hauling mobile homes to North Dakota and Montana. “I did that for 11 years, and then my wife and I started escorting mobile homes. We did that for 34 years. I retired when I was 95; I was still in pretty good shape, then!” he said.

There was a time when Milton also dabbled in dirt track racing. He said: “I was pit man for my brother, Lyle. I drove Lyle’s cars a few times, but I was never a race car driver. I owned one race car, but sold it to Lyle. That was a good car; he took first place a lot with that one!”

Milton and Eileen were snow birds who enjoyed wintering in Texas. “We towed a three-bedroom mobile home there each winter for 15 years,” he said. “We really liked it there!”

Milton and Eileen continue to live at home, and both are in good health. Milton uses a walker to get around, but he keeps busy around his yard and enjoys walking along his block. “I enjoy watching baseball; I’m so glad the Twins will be playing again! I also watch The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune. That Vanna White is skinny and tall, but she’s got a nice smile,” Milton said.

Milton and Eileen’s daughter Dawn Schmidt has planned a special event to help her dad celebrate is 100th birthday. She said: “We invite everyone to a drive-by celebration on Thursday, August 7 at the parking lot by the water tower and Thrifty White Pharmacy. The celebration begins at 6:30 p.m., and we are asking that, due to COVID-19, people stay in their cars and wave as they drive by.

“We’re also hoping that he receives 100 birthday cards for his 100th birthday. Cards can be mailed to: Milton Hoidal, 802 N. 6th Street, Montevideo.”

In the end, age is just a number, but reaching the age of 100 is indeed a special event. Over the course of 100 years, Milton has seen and done some amazing things, and his life has been a life well lived.

Some of Milton's memorabilia from WWII.