Book about growing up in North Dakota in the 1950s wins national award, headed for the big screen

BISMARCK, ND – Windmills are an iconic piece of the North Dakota landscape. Early settlers used windmills to pump water from wells for livestock and domestic use. By 1954 most farms in the state had electricity, and wind turbines began to be removed.

But for the Pfeiffer sisters, who grew up near Menoken, the windmill on their farm was a key part of their lives and formed many childhood memories in the 1950s. family wind inspired them to write a book.

And what’s happened since the publication of their book, “While the Windmill Watched: A Slice of Rural America in the 1950s” is good news.

Jackie Pfeiffer McGregor and Janine Pfeiffer Knop have a passion for the 1950s. So much, in fact, that the decade is the focus of their YouTube channel, “The 1950s Fun Chat.”

“Each week, Jackie and I record with someone who lived in the 1950s or whose life was influenced by the 1950s,” Knop explained. Their guests come from all over the world. “It’s just a delightful way to learn about other people’s experiences in the 1950s,” Knop said.

But the sisters have a soft spot for North Dakota. They grew up on a farm near Menoken in the 1950s.

“The first 10 years of my life were in the decade of the 1950s,” Knop said. “It was imprinted in us, in our community, in our neighbors and in the way we lived this life at the time.”

These childhood memories and photos were the inspiration behind their book, “While the Windmill Watched: A Slice of Rural America in the 1950s.” The book is written in four voices: each sister, the sisters together and the windmill. It includes many photos from the sister’s childhood.

“We realized while we were writing the book that we were blessed,” McGregor said.

They share stories of their 4-H days, dance and piano recitals, and life on the farm. Their book recently won a National Independent Press Award for Distinguished Favorite and will soon be made into a movie.

“I think 1950s North Dakota is a really great time and a cool thing to capture on film,” said Daniel Belinski, founder of Canticle Productions, the Bismarck-based company that will make the film.

Production is expected to begin in 2023. In the meantime, the sisters will continue to share their memories of the decade that shaped them.

“While the Windmill Watched” is available at several Bismarck bookstores, as well as the NDSU bookstore and online at whilethewindmillwatched.com.

The sisters will be on a book tour through North Dakota next week. You can find all the details of their stops on their website.

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