Written by Devon Boen
Local twins Marvin and Monroe Bartel recently celebrated their 90th birthdays. The two men were born and raised in Wolf Point and have deep roots in the area.
Over the course of 90 years, a person collects experiences and memories and often creates a wide range of family and friends. This is an understatement in the case of the two men who have built a solid foundation here since they were born.
Marvin and Monroe Bartel were born Jan. 18, 1923, to Cornelius and Martha Bartel.
The couple was expecting a baby, but not twins, so the family had to improvise. One of Monroe’s children, Rynette Olson, said Cornelius made a customized double high-chair seat for the boys. Marvin and Monroe might have been identical, but they realized early on being twins made them unique.
Twins or not, life wasn’t easy in 1923, but advances in technology were becoming more common including home refrigerators, masking tape and portable radios. But, according to Olson, Marvin and Monroe’s family didn’t have every modern convenience available. The family moved from Hillsboro, Kansas, in 1916 to homestead north of Wolf Point.
“Homesteading in the early 1900s required great determination, a lot of hard work and a willingness to live in a harsh climate with very few comforts,” Olson said.
The boys didn’t seem to acknowledge any adversity and found fun at every turn. It is often said a box is the best toy you can give a child but, in Marvin and Monroe’s case, the best toy was a dull sod axe.
“Marvin and Monroe found that having a twin meant having a perfect playmate. Some of their playtime adventures included using an old dull axe to try to cut sod pieces to build a sod shack,” Olson said. “When little boys play with an axe, it doesn't always end well but, in this case, the injury was only minor. Another time, a hastily discarded hammer resulted in a broken window and two little boys hiding from their mother.”
But the twins’ childhoods weren’t all harmless mischief. Education and chores were a major priority. The boys attended the Pioneer School a mile and a half from their home for eight years. Outside of school, the twins had to milk the cows and would listen to Jack Armstrong on the radio in the barn.
Marvin and Monroe graduated from Wolf Point High School in 1941 and began farming afterward. Neither of the young men wanted to leave the area since it was so deeply intertwined with their identities.
Marvin and Monroe both wanted to start a family and, in a turn of events that seemed to be destined, the twins married — Marvin to Janice Gunn and Monroe to Wilma Isle — in a double wedding June 4, 1950.
After marrying, Marvin and Monroe both started growing their families. Marvin and Janice had three children, Wendy, Rod and Meredith. Monroe and Wilma had also had three children, Rynette, Jeral and Marlin.
Monroe’s wife is now deceased.
The twins celebrated their 90th birthday at Faith Lutheran Home surrounded by their children and grandchildren. Any family members who couldn’t be present Skyped with Marvin and Monroe and wished them a happy birthday.
Whether it is the advent of the home refrigerator or the ability to see a loved one’s face halfway across the world, it is undeniable that much changes throughout a lifetime but, for Marvin and Monroe Bartel, solid roots and a loving family have been unwavering pillars in their lives.