Ordinary People

Ordinary People is one of those “must see”movies.   The novel was written by MInnesota Author Judith Guest, directed by Robert Redford and won 4 Academy Awards in 1980, including Best Picture.  It is an intense study of human behavior staring Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland and is considered the breakout role for Timothy Hutton.  As I watched it again, I was taken back in time to a meeting with the Author in Carver.

In the early 70’s Carver was abuzz with activity.  Carver-on-the-Minnesota was a newly formed Corporation founded by Anne Neils and Edith Herman and dedicated to preserving the history of our sleepy little Village of Carver.

After the first Steamboat Days, attending by thousands, in September of 1971, The Village of Carver was highlighted in a way not seen before.  Residents and historians became interested in the mid 1800 structures that had survived, and the  repairs needed to preserve them for future generations. There were bus tours, arranged by C-O-T-M, to generate interest and funds for the restoration projects. Restored homes would be opened and guests would be guided through the homes with the history of each given by residents or members of C-O-T-M group.  HillDale, the Carver Cottage, the Johnson General Store, Dikeside, Kraemer’s Cafe, the Cheese Cave, Dietz/Riesgraf Meat Market and Ice House, the Hebeisen Hardware, The Gables, the Robert Johnson home and the local Churches, were all favorite destinations.  The Tour would be followed by a lunch prepared and hosted by the local Church Ladies Aid Auxiliaries. Serving was complete with linen cloths, crystal stemware and antique settings of china and tea cups.  It was an exciting time for Carver and it’s residents. It was easy to get caught up in the activity.

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My husband, Darrel and I had recently purchased the Robert Johnson home on the corner of 4th Street West and Ash.  As a Charter Member of C-O-T-M, I worked closely with Anne Neils and Edith Herman and became intrigued in exploring the history of our little Village.  A trip to Galena showed us how our Village could be transformed into a showcase of history and a destination for tourists.

With the arrival of those tourists, little shops and eateries started popping up to accommodate the visitors. Marlene Knutson and Paul Jennings purchased Gracie’s Grocery Store, formerly a Bank complete with Vault, and transformed it into an Ice Cream and Confection store, accompanied with an array of Antiques, Art and handmade craft items that could be purchased.  Sitting on the bank of Carver Creek made the perfect spot to amble down Historic Broadway with an ice cone or the ever popular Root Beet float.

Springside, just on the other side of Spring Creek was converted into Toad Hollow Cafe.  Proprietors Doreen and Karen, residents of Carver, featured “Peasant Lunch”, Toad Hollow Quiche, fresh cucumber sandwiches, banana and other nut breads, and salads along with lemonade served with a black licorice swizzle and Exploding Can Dessert…if you are brave enough to order it.

Doreen, Karen and I had just finished reading “Ordinary People” and when Doreen realized the author was a Minn native from nearby Edina, it was decided to ask her to come to Toad Hollow for a Book Reading and Signing event on the deck overlooking Spring Creek.  The attendance and the sale of the book exceeded all expectations.  Judith Guest proved to be a warm and interesting person, generous with her time and delighting her audiences.

As happens so often, small business enterprises don’t last forever and Toad Hollow only stayed for a couple of summers. While on the entertainment level, Director Robert Redford became interested in bringing “Ordinary People” to life in a Movie by the same name.  The Movie continues to be a popular choice.

Years later Doreen, Karen and I took a road trip to Chicago and found the home in Forest Hills that served as the setting for the Movie.  That visit seems to have completed the circle of our early encounter with the Author.

Chaska Community Center

They come from near and far to celebrate the genius of Audree Sells. Neighbors, friends and family trying to grasp the magnitude of Audree‘s works in fabric art quilting.

To contemplate and complete even one piece of art of this caliber would be daunting or down right impossible for most or all in the assembled crowd. To have completed hundreds of masterpieces is beyond our imagination.

Pastel porch scenes and vibrant and intricate flowers, trees, buildings and rippling water, come to life under her masterful hands. Intricate stitches, thousands of them, on each canvas of material, tell of her life and the places she has Visited, flowers she has grown and photos that she has taken or seen.

Amazing color pallets come alive with her talent. Here a bag of scraps she uses to create an amazing forest scene, alive with varied tones and subtle textured dimensions woven into each. No painting could better capture the depth or beauty of the subject.

Family and fellow quilters proudly display each piece of art, front and back, as detail is carefully crafted to make both sides beautiful.

Bidding starts with the crowd quickly offering ever increasing sums for their favorites among the fifty offerings for tonight’s auction. Family and friends help with the auctioneering, displaying and organizing. Bidding goes quickly as each original piece is presented, reaching fever pitch as the number of quilt offerings are quickly dwindling.

We are reminded by Auctioneer, Suzanne Sells Thiesfeld, Audree‘s daughter,“ that each is one of a kind…no duplication on any piece” and “each one is lovingly completed by Audree in hand or machine quilting”.

As the event is coming to a close, successful bidders are giddy with their purchases and anxious to head home to display in their homes or offices.

THANK YOU Audree for sharing your gift of artistry with this world.

Williams Farm Auction September 9, 1961

We wake in early morning to sunshine and voices.  Busy hands of family, friends, neighbors and auctioneers arranging familiar items used each day, onto hay wagons, sorting as they load.  Tractors, wagons, plows, balers and other farm equipment lined in rows like soldiers going to battle.

Our usual world of calm and order is today in chaos.  The setting takes on a carnival atmosphere as more people flock into the yard and the food and beverage truck arrives.

9:00 O’clock and the voice on the loudspeaker announces the sale of livestock will be first.  Herds of people head up the hill to the barn.  Each milk cow has a bid and are led away to waiting trucks. One by one the herd disappears.  Wishful thinking that perhaps Red, whose back we traveled on so many days when we brought the cows up from the pasture to the barn for milking, would be spared.  Tears fell as she was claimed by her new owner.

Our way of life and everything familiar was being challenged.  The trees in the orchard that we climbed every day…the strawberry and raspberry patches that provided such delicious treats…the full acre of garden where we planted and weeded and harvested fresh vegetables for the summer and froze or canned a supply lasting through the long winter months…the milk tank at the barn where we cooled  countless watermelons for tasty hot afternoon refreshment from the heat and hay hauling.

Would the new owners enjoy the skiing and sledding hills…the skating pond at the bend of the creek…the creek itself with fish and frogs and crayfish… How would we survive without those daily winter and summer activities on the hills, in the woods and wandering on the pastureland ?

When would they realize that each porch provides  protection from the sun at a different part of the day?  Will they cook and eat and pray together around the kitchen table as we have for so many years? Will they embrace and love our home as we do? The extra large bedrooms with windows that allow sunshine during daylight and gentle breezes as we dream each night? The dining room where we gather with pillows on the floor and laugh as we watch the latest TV comedy. How will we survive without space to run and play, our world minus the endless paths for biking and the baseball field of grass on the side yard… Playing till dark, watching the fireflies flit about, the sounds of the animals as they settle for the night….  Gathering the chickens into the pens, catching the roosters from the tree tops and making sure there is food and water available for the pigs, chicken and livestock.

Will they embrace the friendships of the neighboring families who have helped us out on so many occasions? Hay baling and hauling, silo filing and harvesting the corn were always joint experiences…going from one farm to the other until the work for the season was complete.

Will we be able to experience the same sense of wonder and freedom that now surround us each day when we move to a home with a small yard and close neighbors?

Give Hope 2 Kids~~Casa de Esperanza Para Ninos

We first learned of the Dream “Give Hope 2 Kids~~Casa de Esperanza Para Ninos” translated (House of Hope for kids) in June 2006 at a family wedding. Sarah, my grand niece and her fiance’ Jason had come back from mission work in Australia to be married.

I remember asking Sarah ”how long are you thinking of doing work as a Missionary?” her response was a quick, “Oh Auntie, we’ll be Missionaries our whole lifetime!” Quite a statement from a just married 23 year old.

Jason and Sarah then told us of their calling to Honduras and explained their plan and how it would impact many lives in one of the poorest regions of Central America.

Their plan is unfolding as they predicted that day in June. Lots of dedication and hard work has been infused in the project by Jason, Sarah and many volunteers.

They have constructed 3 homes for orphan children~~each will house 6-8 children and a house Mom and Dad. They have built a library, a guest house for volunteers, a huge activity center that is used as a library, basketball court, a Prayer Center and Community gathering area.

They had invited us to serve as volunteers in past years, but this January our plans came together. Two of my sisters, Rosie Boyd and Donna Williams S.L.W., two of my nieces Jean Christensen and Beth McCready and Beth’s husband Paul were able to answer the call.

After a long travel day we landed at San Paulo Sula Aeroporto in Honduras. Another 4 hours by van and we arrived in the City of LeCeiba where we stayed our first night. Sunday brought Church, breakfast and then another 2 1/2 hours up the mountain by car. “over the River and thru the woods took on a whole new meaning”. The roads are rock and gravel and mud and very bumpy.

Honduras has a hot, humid climate, intense sun and lush beautiful foliage and trees. We had several days of hot sun and then several days of torrential monsoon rainfall. We painted buildings when the sun was shining, cooked marvelous meals with the plentiful citrus, avocados. pineapples, bananas, mangos, fresh lettuce. tomatoes and herbs that grew right outside our door.

We helped with Library sessions each afternoon. We beaded bracelets, taught the kids to crochet, helped them figure out puzzles and books. We taught them English words and they helped us with Spanish. We taught them some American games and they shared drawings and stories with us. They are a beautiful, gracious and happy people that live in a remote and a very poor region that does not offer job opportunities to many. Most homes have electricity (brought in by the Dole Pineapple Company when they grew pineapple in the area), but most do not have running water, so daily life is difficult.  Coffee is grown and processed with an old hand mill.

Esperanza Home is working towards being a self sustaining community. They just added 3 cows to the herd of 9 sheep for milk and cheese. Laying hens should arrive soon. Pineapple, avocado, mango, citrus and mango trees have been planted along with mahogany trees for future use. Buildings are constructed of concrete to counteract the humidity and termites that quickly damage wooden structures.

It was a marvelous experience driven by the dedication and the inspiration of this young couple.  Getting to spend a week with sisters and other family members is always a pleasant time.  We worked hard at painting and organizing, cleaning, and cooking.  Evenings we played cards or read while Jason entertained us on the keyboard.

Harvey’s Bar

Harvey’s Bar has been a fixture on the corner of Broadway and Third Street in Carver for Eighty years.  There may only be a handful of residents that remember a time before it’s rich history began.

My husband Darrel has lived in Carver for 74 1/2 of his 75 years and, because he delivered  daily Star and Tribune newspapers to most people in town for a number of those years, he can remember who lived where and when….and usually the amount of the tip that was given each week.

As with most workers in the late 40’s and early 50’s, each day started very early. Matt and Aggie Harvey liked to have their morning paper early each day so they could find out what was happening in the larger community the paper covered. Those news items were exchanged with patrons throughout the day.  In those early days, Debhorn, Terwedo, Westlund, along with local Firemen Swanson, Pauly, Riesgraf, Kraemer, and Lenzen may be occupying those stools catching the news.  Local residents that served to build the framework of the City we enjoy today.

Since the family had living quarters in the back of the building on the main floor and in the upstairs level of the building, Matt and Aggie were never far from their work.

At that time the bar was not very big, stools around the bar and booths along the side wall.  Hard Liquor and Beer were sold to enjoy on the premises, and patrons bringing their own containers could get refills of beer to take with them.   Similar to the growlers that are becoming popular in today’s world.  When the children became of age, they worked alongside their parents. So a new generation of Harvey’s continued with Aggie.  Margie and Laura helped out and eventually Laura’s husband, Jim Hron started taking over bar tending duties after he completed his US Mail route each day.

Somewhere along the way, Laura and Jim purchased the bar, kept the name and were able to expand the area as they no longer lived in residence. Weekends there were Dances being held at Carver Ballroom, so Harvey’s became one of the spots a beverage could be enjoyed before the dance.  A pool table and some tables were added.  Some lively competition followed with card games, dice shaking and bets on pool games.

Harvey’s changed hands again when Laura’s nephew Mark Anhalt and Keith Wickenhauser joined forces and purchased the bar.  Again, they kept the Harvey’s name.  Kraemer’s Cafe, which had been across the street had recently closed, so they decided to expand, add a small kitchen with a grill and began to offer food selections along with beverages.  Laura Niesche worked for Keith and Mark and then for Keith after he bought out Mark’s share of the enterprise. Eventually Laura purchased Harvey’s and continues with the operation today.  The food selections have been expanded and Taco Tuesdays, Buck Burgers Wednesdays, along with a different special each day for lunch,  have the Bar packed most days and nights. Saturday and Sunday guests are treated to Bloody Mary’s along with great breakfast items including Omelets, hash browns, sausage, bacon, ham, French toast, pancakes Etc. etc. to standing room only crowds.

Successful business enterprises don’t just happen. There is always a plan behind the fun.  Careful and friendly staff selection, good cooks, great and ever changing menu selections bring patrons back.  In a small town (can we even keep referring to Carver as a small town with all the development going on) giving back to the Community is paramount for success.  If we track each of the owners of this “Neighborhood

Bar” we will find that each has contributed in many ways. Supporting the City and fellow business enterprises thru being Lions Club Members, Steamboat Days supporters, Firemen’s Golf Event organizers, Smile Network Fund raising, Benefits for local residents who need support because of illness or tragedy, and the list goes on.

When all is said and done, we residents are the lucky recipients as we have a Neighborhood Hangout, where we can stop for a brew and connect with friends and family any and every time we wish. Knowing that the lights are on, the staff is friendly, the beer cold and the food delicious.

We wish you many more years of success Laura.

Swanson/Johnson Farm

marriageIs it age that finds me waking at 4:00 in the morning with history and stories dancing in my mind? Whatever the reason, writing them down seems to become of the utmost importance.  But where to start…genealogy is an unending project of discovery.

My husband’s Grandfather, Karl (Charles) Anders ( August) Swensen  (Swanson) came to America from the Vreta Kloster Parish in Vastergotland, Sweden, as a sixteen year old to visit relatives that had already immigrated to America and settled in the

West Union area of Carver County. The year was 1885.  Can we even imagine the length of time it took with ships over the ocean, boats down rivers, horse and buckboard across muddy trails that served as roads in the  late 1800’s? Living conditions in Sweden had become overcrowded with farmers not being able to provide for their families. It was the custom in Sweden to break up the farmland and give a plot to each child for their start in life. Even a large area of farmland when broken into ten or more smaller plots over several generations, was not enough to continue to provide for families, pay taxes, and offer stability for a bright future.

America offered a promise of bountiful harvest and a chance at independence. Charley worked as a farm hand on the Alfred Johnson farm.  He returned to Sweden to visit his family and returned in October of 1894 and filed a declaration to become a Citizen of the United States of America. March 12, 1900, he became a Citizen. On May 22, 1900, he married Alice Johnson, daughter of Andrew Johnson and Mary (MajaStina) Olson.  The custom of gifting a plot of the original farm to offspring that started in Sweden was continued in America. Charles and Alice were allowed to purchase an 80 acre parcel that was part of the original Alfred Johnson homestead.

They built a home on the 80 acres in West Union, where they lived and raised a family of ten children.  They retired to Cologne in the late 1940’s. Woodrow and Mabel Swanson, my husband’s parents, lived there for a few years and then the home and farm were taken over by Paul (always knows as Bobbie) Swanson and his wife Della Preiss Swanson.

familyThe Swanson home continued to serve as a gathering place for family reunions, picnics, summer hay hauling, and grilled chicken dinners that Aunt Della was famous for.  Many Sunday afternoons the family gathered to visit, play cards, catch fireflies and enjoy a Potluck dinner with aunts, uncles and cousins. The home still stands as a proud reminder of the Swanson family’s ancestors who enjoy a rich heritage in Carver County and the surrounding area.

Even tho our way of life has changed in so many ways over the past 100 years,

We give homage to ancestors by continuing to observe and celebrate as they did.

Many of the Swedish customs are still practiced in our families to this day.  The celebration on Christmas Eve with the traditional foods of Lutefisk, Oyster Stew, Herring, Swedish Meatballs, Sausage, Mashed Potatoes, gravy and rosette cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar are lovingly prepared and served each year.  We use the recipes that have been passed down thru generations. Christmas trees are decorated with bright straw ornaments still handmade by local ladies, candles and brightly colored ribbons and home made ornaments. There are annual trips to the Swedish Institute in Mpls to enjoy the Swedish elves and a cup of grog. Our home was built over 100 years ago by a Swedish couple, so all things Swedish seem appropriate even in today’s changing society.

Going to the Cabin

img_2274The Coffee Club can’t grasp the difference in time the ‘TRIP’ to the cabin takes when my husband, Darrel, drives alone vs when he’s lucky enough to have me accompany him.  He proudly announces that his ‘trip’ takes 3 hours 15 minutes from door to door.

The Coffee Club members need to know that the ‘trip’ becomes a ‘journey’ with me in the passenger seat.  Who doesn’t stop at every roadside stand offering fresh sweet corn or luscious red raspberries?   And, while some GARAGE SALE signs can be ignored, if the sign shows promise, a quick stop just ‘to look’ is required.  Precious finds are then positioned carefully in the already packed suburban.  Can you imagine a little grumbling about now?

And, lucky for us, there are a few ANTIQUE STORES strategically placed along Route #169.  These stores need to be explored…the “if we don’t … who will” mentality usually wins out.  The Cardinal Rule applying is that there is only 1 stop per antiques per trip.  Some things a girl just has to learn to live with.

Add on a quick stop for gas, a DQ, the Walleye on Mille Lacs…just to gaze out over the huge expanse of water while eating our picnic lunch.  Three hours have passed and we are already half way to the Cabin.   Throw in a ‘quick stop’ in Grand Rapids for forgotten groceries and we pull onto the dirt drive at #334 just 5 hours and 25 minutes after the ‘journey’ started.  Right on schedule to start a putter, fix and repair, but still relaxing weekend.

We’ll try for a quicker route on the way home as only a few comments of “are we there yet” are tolerated by the driver.

The Real Life of Carver # 1

While Carver Life is all things current, the Real Life of Carver started many years ago but is certainly still relevant in today’s world.

As I sift through memories of past events and marvel at the content of stories that have been handed down, I can’t help but be struck by the dedication and resilience of those generations that have come before us.  It would be an impossible task to arrange events in an exact timetable of happenings but each is important in it’s own right and therefore should be recorded in any manner that makes them known.

The history of the founding of the site now known as the City of Carver is well documented. Jonathan Carver discovering the Minnesota River and settling the area just below the Carver Rapids.  Familiar names dot our landscape on street signs and historical homes.  Early abstracts contain names of many famous men and women who pioneered and settled this area.  Families with names of Funk, Griffin, Hartley, DuToit, Hill, Hebeisen, Klein, Dauwalter, Johnson, Ramsey, Trieloff, Skoog, Erickson, Anderson, Westlund and Gehl are documented on many Abstracts of ownership.

img_2727The landscape of the Village of Carver changed after the economic Crash and the resulting depression.  Banks closed, merchants weren’t able to continue operating their once prosperous stores, homes were lost by families.  But a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs emerged.  Hardworking and dedicated families carried the banner for the Village of Carver.  Now we see ownership in the names of Pauly, Kraemer, Lenzen, Scott, Swanson, Riesgraf, Lano, Kling, Robb, Sells, Larson, Thiesfeld and Quast blended with descendants of the old guard to keep Carver on the map.

The struggles they faced may not have been exactly like the early explorers and settlers who had Indian uprisings, lack of food and shelter, storms and floods to face with very few resources, but the challenges must have seemed insurmountable on many occasions.  They were the men and women who now served in capacities as Mayor,  Councilmen, Constables, Firemen and Church Elders as well as merchants, bankers, home builders, farmers, mechanics, blacksmiths and general laborers.  This new group kept the dream of building the City of Carver alive by joining hands to help one another and to set guidelines that were necessary to keep order ensuring safety for those lucky enough to be able to homestead in the area. And amid the everyday work, they managed to celebrate and have fun times with one another.  We celebrate their lives by telling their stories.


Scott-SellsInspiration to become a teacher came to Audree at an early age. In the 1930’s and 1940’s it was typical for teachers to live with area families close to the location of the school they taught in. Oswin and Eleanor Scott, Audree’s parents, had teachers stay with them and their five children on the 180 acre dairy farm in East Union that was homesteaded by her parents and grandparents.

Daily life on a dairy farm at the turn of the century was both rigorously demanding and, by some standards,  simple in it’s nature. The constant farm chores of milking, tending to a herd of cattle and other animals, planting and harvesting crops with teams of horses and later tractors, meant long days of battling the weather. Winter brought snow storms and freezing temps.  Milking cows by hand in the cold barn was more than a little chore. Scorching heat in the summer months proved just as difficult while harvesting the crops and caring for the farm animals.

Scott-Sells2Neighboring farm families helped each other with the harvesting, but daily chores were done by family members.  Chores were shared by parents and Audree’s sisters, Shirley and Carol and brothers, Donald and Jerry so everyone was up early as there was work to do before the school bell rang.

Luckily for the Scott family, and the rest of Minnesota residents, Minnesota has equal days of beautiful weather with beautiful sunrises, cool and crisp sunny days and farming isn’t a 24/7 job winter or summer. Warm winter days also meant bundling up and skiing or sledding with cousins down the steep hills of East Union. More often than not, right down the middle of the road we now know as County Road #40. Thankfully there wasn’t much traffic and there was a sentry posted to look out for horse and buggy travelers, or the occasional car or truck. Ice skating on local lakes and potholes also provided entertainment for cousins and friends. Board games and cards, along with hot chocolate and popcorn, were always good fun when visitors came.

Summer days offered the luxury of swimming in Bevens Creek, located on the farm site. Wild berries bursting with flavor were plentiful throughout the acreage, just waiting to be gathered for a quick snack and/or a cobbler or pie for supper later in the day. Harvested berries were also used to make jams and jellies for winter treats.

While in class in 2nd grade with Ms. Gertrude Tessman as teacher, Audree watched carefully as teacher printed the letters on the black board. Students were then encouraged to trace over the letter while reciting the letter aloud. It struck Audree as an easy way to learn, and she would remember that  as an effective way to teach future students.

In 8th grade with Ms. Alma Cedarstrom as teacher, the assignment was to interview local Communiuty Business leaders to learn about the daily routine in their business and learn perhaps why they chose the profession they did. Each student had a business to contact and visit,   Blacksmith, Minister, Teacher, Banker, Shop Owner etc.  After completing their report, each student then shared his or her findings with the other class members. Ms. Cedarstrom was so impressed with the results that she entered the papers in the Minnesota State Fair. Imagine their pride when their reports garnered first place and a blue ribbon at that Fair. Audree reaffirmed her desire to become a teacher.

Too often the mindset of the time was that “men needed to be educated” but further education beyond High School wasn’t needed or encouraged for women. When the announcement was made that Audree wanted to attend the required two years of additional education to become a teacher, her father discouraged her, but Audree’s mom simply stated that “If Audree wants to go to school, she should do just that”. So off she went and at age 19, Audree graduated with a teacher’s degree. Her teaching career started in Brownton, Mn for a couple of years, then to Texas for a couple of years, then back to Carver, Mn, then to Shakopee and the last 25 years were spent in Eden Prairie. Thirty eight years were devoted to teaching enthusiastic 2nd grade students.  Many of whom are still in contact with her today.

Scott-Sells3How can influence be measured in words? It simply cannot  be…Audree’s natural artistic talent came alive in the classroom… Literature…how can you tell the area the writer or poet lived…if you look closely, the information can be found in the stories and poems they write…History…Where did the Artist live…  what else was happening in the world at the time they lived…Mathematics…how many miles from this school’s location to London or Chicago….how many miles from those Cities did Van Gogh live…what was the method of transportation at the time…how long would it take to travel the distance? Interesting questions, collective research, and sharing the results was the motivation for each class..and the students learned the answers to all the questions asked and loved being taught, especially by this interesting teacher.

Retirement after thirty eight years of teaching was certainly earned and more than deserved, and those years have been kind to Audree. She developed her natural artistic ability into creating award winning quilts. Quilters across the country are familiar with her quilts, her quick smile and her sunny personality. The teacher is still alive in her heart as well, as she still teaches her quilting technique at her home studio. Most recently she has graciously gathered stories from Lake Bavaria residents, both past and present, and along with her daughter, Kathy and a neighbor, Linda,  has compiled photos and stories into an interesting book on the area.

The TEACHER is alive and well…still an engaging personality…still interesting…with many facts, figures and knowledge to share.

1965 flood: Firefighters performed valiant work


Photo by Woody and Mabel Swanson/Courtesy of Barbara and Darrel Swanson

The winter of 64/65 was a year of heavy snowfall. But the blizzard on St. Patrick’s Day is what put Carver residents on edge.

Carver is one of the oldest cities in the state of Minnesota and it was settled because of the proximity to the Minnesota River. Having endured heavy flooding in the ’50s, predictions were high that the spring of 1965 would be yet another record-breaking year for flood waters.

Warm temps in early April caused a fast thaw all along the Minnesota River Valley.

When the predictions became obvious, an evacuation was ordered on the residents that lived along the river down by the Riverside Park, and the residents on Main Street. The Carver Fire Department was the only volunteer group in Carver at the time and they answered the call. Home furnishings were packed up and moved for many residents, and the firemen were the main force behind the sandbagging effort to save the city.

I moved to Carver as a new bride in 1964 and my husband [Darrel] was a proud fireman. That group of firemen, under the leadership of Chief Ronald Riesgraf, should be imprinted on every mind for the valiant work they did.

Local residents, friends, family and other local fire departments also came to our aid. Truckers volunteered to haul sand, Wm. Mueller and local businesses with backhoes and trenchers and dirt movers also served. They worked in shifts, many nonstop for many days and nights. Sandbagging, patrolling for breaks in the temporary mounds of dirt that were erected, helping residents move their belongings first to the upstairs of their homes and when it became necessary to evacuate completely, they moved the furnishings to safe ground for residents.

The Carver Fire Department also had a Fire Ladies Auxiliary. They were originally formed to provide coffee and sandwiches to the firemen after they returned to the fire station from fighting fires.

All the wives of the fire department served on the auxiliary, and it was this group of ladies, under the leadership of Bev (Kraemer) Swanson as president, that decided to step forward and feed the workers and the displaced families.

Many local residents and friends also volunteered in this effort. The City Hall was designated as the “Red Cross Center” and plans got underway to serve three meals a day — at 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., with a 10 p.m. sandwich and coffee break. These were hearty meals of meat, potatoes, vegetable, salad, bread and dessert. This routine went on for a couple of weeks and when the City Hall became compromised because of the flood waters, the Trinity Lutheran Church basement was designated as the Red Cross Center.

It was a dreary atmosphere most days, as it just kept on raining. The workers would come in soaked to the skin, cold and tired. We’d try to cheer them up, let them warm up with hot coffee and a good meal before they set off again. Hundreds of workers and displaced homeowners were nurtured this way every day.

On Easter Sunday morning, April 18, 1965, we awoke to glorious sunshine and a report of receding flood waters. Shouts of happiness and relief filled the church.

The work for the firemen didn’t stop as they went to each home with the fire trucks and hosed out the mud that was deposited into every little nook and cranny of every home. Cupboards and appliances, bathroom fixtures, nothing was spared. It was a depressing sight to see so many beautiful, historic homes sustain so much damage.

It is a tribute to the residents that they returned to their homes and worked to bring them back to their original luster.

Originally posted on Chanhassen Villager