In the heart of Tyndall next to the Bon Homme Courthouse stands a Greek Revival style home. Tall colonnades flank the front entrance and support a porch that spans the width of the home and a second story enclosed front porch. Upon entering through the front door a central foyer holds a grand hardwood staircase that leads to the second floor.

Meet Richard Ptak, a bachelor and the third generation of Ptaks who currently owns and resides in the home.

As I sit down at the dining room table to talk with Richard about the history of his family home, I am in awe of the space around me and the original furniture that lines every square inch of space. The ceilings are over 15 feet high and original paintings and family photos adorn the walls. This theme will carry on throughout the rest of the home that I will share later.

Richard’s grandparents, Thomas V. and Karoline Ptak, had the home built in 1910. At the time Thomas V. owned the Lumber Yard in Tyndall and spared no expense to the building of this majestic home. Richard says, “I don’t know the man’s name but he was from Paha,

Czech Republic. He built a few other homes in town as well. He would use three different sponges to hand paint the walls in the dining room, living room, and foyer. In the dining room, which looks like a border of grapes and vines was handpainted with small brushes.

After he was done, the man said, “I’m leaving and going back to the Czech Republic. I don’t want to build any more houses!” Richard laughs as he recalls this story. “It had to be quite the undertaking back then to build a 2 ½ story home, with full basement and attic, he would say.

His father, Thomas K. Ptak joined Richard’s grandfather in the lumberyard business in later years. He was married to Ouida Ptak and had three sons. Andre who is now 82 years old, Richard 77 years old, and Jim 75 years old. Richard says, “I was supposed to be a girl.

My mom had a girl’s name already picked out.


When the doctor came out to tell my father, it’s a boy; he jumped up and down, hooting and a hollering.” He begins to laugh again sharing this story with me. Richard says all but 2 years he has lived in this home. He joined the 5th Infantry in Colorado after college. He would spend time in the California and Arizona deserts learning survival skills. Richard says his fondest memory of that time was when they took them by large boats out to the middle of the ocean and had them pair up with another soldier. They had them put on their lifejackets and jump into the ocean, and swim for shore. He said, “You know I was a lifeguard for years in high school, but nothing compared to the waves of the ocean.” He came back home, “and that was that.”

We begin the tour in the main bedroom on the first floor. This was grandpa and grandma’s bedroom, he would tell me. Hanging on the wall are hand painted photos of them in oval tortoise patterned frames with bubble glass to protect the images. Richard now uses the bedroom as his own. The original brass bed was too high for him to get into so it was taken apart and hauled upstairs to his childhood bedroom and sits up there.

The kitchen now has all new updated appliances and cupboard along with a smaller sink. The original kitchen sink is still in the home and is being used in the basement. There is a back stairwell that would head to the second floors kitchen. Richard’s mom, dad, and brothers would live on the


second floor and his grandparents on the main floor. He says, “even after grandpa and grandma passed on, mom and dad kept their bedroom upstairs; never moving downstairs.” Into the grand dining room we enter and taking up almost the entire length of the wall is a solid wood and glass hutch that is built into the wall. This still holds much of the original china and silver, as it was over a hundred years ago. The original dining room table stands in the center and would have seated twelve people, Richard states. We enter the living room, which is divided from the dining room with smaller wood columns and built in bookcases. A grandfather clock stands between two large windows that start just below the ceiling and extend all the way to the floor. There is so much natural light coming in that there is no need to turn on any lights. Most of the original furniture still stands in its place. A queen style chair and couch along with several other wooden chairs with cross stitched cushions. A large radio sits in the far corner of the room. I have to ask Richard what this is as I have no idea. He tells me it still works; this is a pattern with much that is in the home. All the rooms still have the original light fixtures hanging from the ceilings and they all still work! We enter back to the front foyer, also separated from the living room with wooden columns and built-in bookcases.

We take the grand staircase to the second floor. The first bedroom we enter is where Richard’s brothers, Andre and Jim, slept. Two beds still stand in place along with multiple family photos hanging on the walls. There is another door and this takes us out to the enclosed porch. More beds stand in place along with a table and chairs. Richard says, “I would sleep out here quite often. All the way till the second week in October. Many people thought I was crazy.” He recalls at one time there was a bee hive in the far corner and for years they would collect honey from it.


We make our way to the living room that was used by his parents till their passing. Still holding his mom’s piano, her writing desk, a marble table, the original TV; which Richard recalls came from Karl’s TV and Appliances in Yankton and still works. Updated are two lounge chairs, one for mom and one for dad that came from Hatch Furniture. With a gleam in his eye, Richard lifts the piano’s lid revealing the keys and says, “I took piano lessons for many years. One time I played a song in front of some folks at the old auditorium in town. When I was done they clapped and said ‘play some more.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry folks I only know one song.’” He begins to laugh again and says, “all those lessons and I only learned one song!”

We proceed down the long hallway to the next bedroom which was his parents. Untouched over all these years, his dad’s dresser is adorned with track medals and plaques. Thomas K. Ptak after high school attended Yankton College receiving many track awards and also a degree in teaching and music. He taught in Onida, SD, Highmore, SD, and Tyndall. Richard pulls out of the closet his dad’s suitcase that he used when he travelled. His most prized possessions he revealed from the closet were two of his father’s violins in their original cases along with a trumpet so beautiful that they would have taken your breath away. Richard tells me that his dad would play the trumpet at local funerals. “When I would come home from college, dad would pull out the trumpet and blow it at me from across the room and ask me, “how does that sound?”

His mom’s dresser still holds a hand mirror and brush along with little porcelain figurines and the bed is still made standing in the center of the room.

The third bedroom is Richard’s. Grandpa and Grandma’s brass bed now stands front and center. A cuckoo clock hangs in the corner. Adorning the walls are stuffed birds; a quail, pheasants, and ducks. Brother Jim was the hunter and had given them to him. A unique collection of hats are in a pile on a stand. He has an old radio that still works, “and could even get stations from Europe,” he says. We proceed to the end of the hallway to the kitchen. Updated appliances as well but the cupboards are original, still holding all the dishes, bowls, and cups from when his parents were still alive. Richard shows me another stairwell that leads to the attic. We begin the climb upward. The attic reveals boxes upon boxes of items. More furniture, hutches, dressers, chairs, and cushions. There are baskets of stuffed animals, old sewing machines, and piles of magazines that “mom collected over all her years.” Bizarre, The Post, McCalls.


Childhood toys that Richard and his brothers played with, many of the items still in fair condition. Out of the corner of my eye I spot a very old football sitting on top of a stand and ask Richard about this. “Dad and I and the brothers would throw that around outside in the yard, that was fun times,” he says. We make our way down the stairs to the second floor, then down the main stairwell to the main floor. Our last stop is the basement. The original dirt floor is now covered with tiles. Richard shows me what would have been the fruit room. “Grandma had a large garden out back and peach, pear, and apple trees. She would can everything and it was all brought down here and stored away.” He also states that whenever there was a tornado, this is where they came to wait it out. The next room over was the old coal room. In there stands the old fuel tank and old wheel keg barrels. I asked him what these were used for and he stated that was how the nails arrived to the lumberyard, now they come in boxes. Back when coal was used to heat the homes, Richard recalls that the coal would arrive on trains. He and his brothers, along with their dad, would take the horse drawn wagons and fill them and then haul them back to the lumberyard where they had 20 buildings to fill with several types of coal. They sold this to the town’s residence back in those days. He tells me they would shovel coal to the coal machine to heat the home and part of his chores was to remove the ashes from the chimney. “Grandma would give me such a hard time cause I would come upstairs and my shoes would track ashes all over the floors!” The last thing Richard shows me is the original kitchen sink, now standing in the main room of the basement. Thirty some years ago he had some local men carry it downstairs and hook it up. They asked Richard if he knew there was a very large hole on the bottom side. Showing Richard, he reached up into it and pulled out a sack, dumping out the contents to reveal gold and silver coins that his grandparents had stashed for good keeping. “Wow you could imagine my surprise,” he states.

After we have made our way back to the main level, I ask Richard why he has kept so much of all the original furniture and belongings going back generations. “There is a lot of history in this home. I never had the heart to part with any of it. Every item has a story and I’ve enjoyed it a lot and I’ve had a lot of fun here!”