Posted 2/25/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer
Watford City native Daniel Stenberg co-produced an hour long documentary about his late grandfather and five siblings, who grew up during the World War II era in McKenzie County.
Prairie Public Broadcasting cooperated with Stenberg to present these historical stories through film. After three years of work, the documentary ‘6 Brothers’ will premiere on Prairie Public Television at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
“This isn’t a story of ‘rags to riches’ or ‘the rest of the story’ of someone famous,” Stenberg said. “But rather it documents the lives of those whose experiences would be similar of many other North Dakotan families who grew up around the same time.”
Stenberg, the grandson of one of the six brothers - Chris Stenberg, was helping his grandmother clean up her house in 2006 after his grandfather passed away at the age of 90. According to Stenberg, he found some old letters his grandfather had wrote to his family during World War II.
“We were cleaning the house and lo-and-behold, we found 600 pages of letters,” Stenberg said. “That’s nearly one letter a day during the war that he wrote to his parents. I shared the letters with my family, but I thought there was a bigger story behind the letters. I wanted to share them with other people in North Dakota who may have also had an ordinary family during the World War II era. I thought maybe they could relate to the stories.”
The six Stenberg brothers came of age during the Great Depression. Selmer, the youngest brother, died at age nine due to a burst appendix. Four years later, Henry died serving in the military during World War II. The other brothers, Arnold, Casper, Raymond and Chris, continued their lives in McKenzie County, raising families and working in the community until passing away.
Stenberg interviewed numerous relatives, neighbors, and McKenzie County community leaders to get a sense of who these men were, what they did for the community, and what the county was like back then.
The documentary offers an insight as to what life was like back then and how it compares to ordinary families today.
Stenberg said he and his grandfather had a pretty close relationship. While growing up, Stenberg said he remembers his grandfather telling mostly positive stories and hardly talked about the war.
“Finding these letters and reading them showed me a different side to my grandfather,” Stenberg said. “He always focused on happy stories.”
As the landscape, community and economy of western North Dakota is shifting, Stenberg wants this documentary to help people reflect on the past, not dwell on it, but be aware of the changes and challenges that have taken place over the past century.
After growing up on the family farmstead about 10 miles northwest of Watford City, Stenberg moved away for about five years, but returned with a new outlook. He said he realized how unique North Dakota stories were and began planning a way to preserve them - much like this documentary.
“It’s a little nerve-racking for my documentary to premiere,” Stenberg said. “There are a lot of different perspectives in it and I’m sure some people will pick it apart. But I am mostly excited and ready to share these stories with others.”
Along with the first showing on Prairie Public Television, 6 Brothers will also be shown during the 100th Year Watford City Centennial Celebration on June 27 and 28.
DVD copies of 6 Brothers will be available in March online at prairiepublic.org.
For more information about the film, hosting a screening or to see a clip, visit 6brothersfilm.com.