Most evenings, Sola Jost can be found manning the stove at the Bunkhouse in Agar, cooking for the crowds that come from around the surrounding area for a taste of the home-cooked-meal fare.
Sola is most well-known for the meals the Bunkhouse serves on Saturday nights – Mexican night.
The Agar native graduated Agar High School in 1958. “I went to school in Agar in the elementary school in the northeast part of town,” said Sola.
Sola joined other Sully County kids in participating in activities such as YCL – Young Citizens League – and says that she and her friends did a lot of “driving around” during their school lunch breaks.
Agar didn’t offer girls basketball as a team sport when she was in school, and Sola says she never went out for cheerleading. “I’d have liked to play sports,” said Sola. “I tell my kids if I’d been able to play, I probably would have been really good.”
It was at a dance shortly after she graduated that she met her husband, Dennis Jost, a musician. “I never went to college,” said Sola. “I got married out of high school.”
“We used to go over to Lebanon for dances, and he played for the dances.”
An antique organ which she plays by ear for her own pleasure has a place of honor in Sola’s living room. Sola says “I play for myself, but I don’t sing.”
“I had polio in my throat,” said Sola. “That’s why my voice is like it is.”
Sola contracted the highly contagious viral infection that can lead to paralysis, breathing problems, or even death before the vaccine was developed when she was 12-years-old. “My brothers had the mumps at that time and my mom thought I was getting them, too. I had such a terrific headache and I was throwing up, so we went to the doctor, and he sent us to Sioux Falls.”
“I just couldn’t swallow.” She spent some time in an iron lung, a negative pressure ventilator that helps a person breathe. “I don’t remember that,” said Sola. “I don’t remember much about the first three weeks.” Sola notes that the year of the epidemic there were beds lined up in the hospital hallways. “Mom stayed with me the first month.”
“I remember mom telling me one time my dad had just come home from being down that weekend,” said Sola. “They didn’t think I’d make it through the night, so my dad turned around and went back down. After I lived through the night, they decided I was gonna make it and started feeding me through a tube put down my nose into my stomach. It had to be changed every day.”
Sola was fed through the tube for 63 days and hospitalized for three months. After that, “I stayed at my grandma’s in Onida for three or four weeks” in order to receive daily shots at the Onida hospital to keep her from relapsing. “If I would have caught a cold or anything, I could have relapsed.”
“I remember, there was a little girl about two-years-old in an iron lung. Mom would go and sit with her as her parents couldn’t be there.”
The disease kept Sola out of school from October through February the year she was in seventh grade. “They still advanced me,” said Sola. “Probably because I’m smart, or maybe because they felt sorry for me.”
“I never got my voice back, really,” said Sola. “At my last doctor appointment, they told me that one side of my throat is still paralyzed. I choke easy. It’s just different, but at least I’m not crippled where you can see it. My kids never got hollered at because I can’t holler.
The Josts moved for a time to Potter County – “He was from Hoven” – where they farmed. “We moved around a lot.” Eventually they landed at Bob’s Steakhouse working for Bob Smith, until they returned to Agar so Dennis could start his own plumbing business.
“I grew up at the first farm west of town,” said Sola. The Josts had five children, Tim, Tamie Brandt, and Mick “all graduated from Agar,” and Marti Arbach and Tyler “graduated from Onida.”
While the kids were growing up, the family enjoyed going to the river and fishing in Cottonwood Lake. “I remember when the kids were little, we went fishing all the time,” said Sola. “My kids learned to swim in the river.”
When the kids were older, Dennis and Sola “went to all the games” and volunteered at the school every once in a while. Once when her kids were in sports they were following behind the team bus when it broke down coming home from Aberdeen. “Whoever was behind the bus had to pick kids up,” said Sola. “We had nine kids in our car.”
In the Agar community, the Josts sponsored a team in the annual Fernando softball tournament. “We had a really good team,” said Sola. “I pitched. They had to have me – it was called Jost Plumbing.”
Sola has also tried her hand at painting, but found she didn’t have a head for heights. “Marti, Tamie and I used to paint,” said Sola. “We painted Stewart’s big tanks. We each tried to go up the ladder to paint the top, and we could only get about halfway up. Finally we called Jay Mikkelsen, and he finished it.”
Heights were still a problem when the three worked as flaggers for Bill Lehrkamp’s aerial spraying business. “One day, one of us had to fly with Bill to Lebanon, so Tamie and I designated Marti. Eventually she took flying lessons from Bill.”
Since 1988, the Bunkhouse has been owned by Sola’s kids or grandkids. “I worked there all the time. “As soon as my family don’t own it I’m going to quit working,” said Sola, while admitting she enjoys the people and interactions at the Bunkhouse. “I don’t like being alone.” She also keeps busy cleaning a couple of houses and at the church, and “I also sub at the lunch room in Onida.”
The Bunkhouse has become famous for Sola’s chili verde and her hot sauce, which brings a premium at fundraising auctions. “I don’t eat the hot sauce – it’s too hot. I just make it.”
When asked if she can cook anything, Sola responded as if speaking to Captain Obvious. “Well, ya,” said Sola.
Sola has a nice balance of eight grandkids and eight great grandkids. “Three of my grandkids had babies within ten days of each other,” said Sola.
The recent addition of karaoke to the entertainment lineup at the Bunkhouse brings Sola back to her high school days when she was attending the dances in Lebanon. “It’s just fun to have people,” said Sola. “Who cares if you can sing? I have one tone. It’s fun to watch. We have fun.”