Category: History

History of Oronoco Downtown Gold Rush

War Veterans 2011

History of Oronoco Downtown Gold Rush
(from Interview with Mary Lou Berg in 2011;
Photo above from 1986 Rochester Post Bulletin)

Earl and Mary Lou Berg started selling live bait and tackle from their Oronoco garage in 1961. Two years later they bought the big brick building next to the bridge in uptown Oronoco and moved their bait business there. They added groceries, picnic supplies, and beer for tourists and fishermen.

The store was open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. They lived for two years in the back of the store in a partitioned-off area.

The brick building had been empty. It had belonged to the Ondler family and was a grocery and general store. It was still open in 1959, but was empty when the Bergs bought it in 1963.


Fisherman’s Inn

By Hazel Markham
April 23, 2009

Travel east from Oronoco on Highway 12 about 3½ miles and you will come to a fork in the road. Highway 12 angles to the right and goes down hill and across the Sandy Point Bridge which spans the Zumbro River. If you take the left road instead, you will wind down the hill to another part of the river. Years ago, Highway 12 actually did go left at the point where it now divides into two roads. Highway 12 crossed over the Zumbro with a bridge called “White Bridge.” Many of you readers will recall that bridge, but there are a lot of folks who do not remember it. White Bridge was moved there in 1918 from North Mankato where it was built in 1885. It stayed across Lake Zumbro from 1918 until 1972. In earlier times people came from miles around to the White Bridge area to fish and to swim.

Early picture of White Bridge – 1925

Early picture of White Bridge – 1925

Thrashing Crew from Eyota fishing at White Bridge in 1925

Rochester Family resting after swimming at White Bridge – 1940

The early history of this location involves several eating places that opened up along and near the lake. White Bridge was a popular place in those days. The name “White Bridge” sticks in some people’s minds as the nickname for the area long after the bridge itself has been gone.

As one of the first of those early eating establishments, the Fisherman’s Inn has also been there the longest. It was built on the west side of the river around 1930 and is still serving the public 79 years later. It provides a great view of the lake and the river.

Early Picture of White Bridge (Fisherman’s Inn on the Right)

White Bridge and Fisherman’s Inn on the right

In the mid ‘70’s, a history was written by owner Nick Bowlus and was printed on place mats. It was done in bright pink and red and featured a picture of a handsome fisherman. This picture was used as a logo for the restaurant for several years.

The placemat was revised when Jim Peterson owned the Fisherman’s Inn much later.   According to the revised place mat, the following people owned the restaurant over the earliest years:

  • Mr. Herman Wanke built it and had his son-in-law, Mr. Jack Ploof, manage it.
  • Mr. Mike Aune and his wife Ann leased it in the early 40’s.
  • Mr. V. J. JanDu (T-Bone) (no date or other details).
  • J. A. Ballord (no date or other details).
  • Mr. and Mrs. Max Prokasky (approximately 1948).
  • Mr. and Mrs. John McFarlin (1950 or 1951; called it “Jack and Katie’s”).Mr. and Mrs. Richerts who ran it as “Richerts Resort Supper Club” (no date).
  • Mr. and Mrs. Claude O’Malley purchased it and called it “O’Malley’s” until 1971.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Don Schmidt, who changed the name to Fisherman’s Inn Supper Club.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Nick Bowlus bought it in 1974

The placemat actually reads as follows:

“In the early 1930s what is now Fisherman’s Inn was a small building which sold beer and sandwiches. It was built by Mr. Herman Wanke, and run by his son-in-law, Mr. Jack Ploof. Mr. Mike Aune leased it in the early 40s. It was then sold to Mr. V.J. JanDu (T-Bone) who in turn sold it to Mr. J. A. Ballord. Mr. and Mrs. Max Prokasky then purchased it. They built on the porch with storage underneath; at the time it was just screened in and not used in the winter months. Mr. and Mrs. Prokasky then sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Jack McFarlin who raised the building and made living quarters underneath. The McFarlins then sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Richerts who ran it as Richerts Resort Supper Club. In the middle 60s Mr. and Mrs. Claude O’Malley purchased it and ran it under the name of O’Malley’s until 1971 when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Don Schmidt who changed the name to Fisherman’s Inn Supper Club. It was then purchased in 1974 by Mr. and Mrs. Nick Bowlus. In 1979 they built on a 20 by 40 banquet room and new rest rooms. On June 16, 1987, Ralph & Esther Peterson, Jim & Theresa Peterson and Don & Nancy Klassen purchased the Fisherman’s Inn. It is you, our customers, that have made this business grow in the last 49 years. We all thank you.”


Revised Placemat

In his recent book called, Alone With My Memories, Max (Jack) Prokasky tells a bit about when he and his wife Dolly owned the property. He has allowed us to quote him here.

“I guess we thought there must be easier ways to make a living than farming. We had an opportunity to buy a resort on Lake Zumbro which was called “T-Bone’s Resort.” We thought that would be an interesting life, but it was also a lot of hidden work which didn’t bother us. We were used to working but dealing with the public was something we were not used to. My Brother, Chris, and his wife, Minnie, and Dolly, and I bought it and named it “Polack’s Resort.” We made some improvements and had a good business going in the two years we ran it. We met and made many new friends. Then one day the gentleman that tended our machines, offered to buy the resort and we sold it to him. He was a good operator and also ran a good business for many years called “Jack & Katie’s.”

Recently, Jack Prokasky wrote the following in a letter sent to the Oronoco Area History Center:

“Dolly and I and my brother Chris and wife Minnie bought “T-Bones Resort” around 1948. We owned and operated it as “Polack’s Resort” for about two years. During that time we added on the porch with a basement under it. It was only opened from early spring to late fall. On the first day of fishing season we stayed open all night long to accommodate the fishermen. We also rented fishing row-boats and sold minnows. Our menu consisted of “Chicken in a Basket” (batter-fried) and “Barbecued Ribs” for $1.50. They came with French fries (made from fresh, hand-peeled potatoes) and toast. We also served many hamburgers. The second summer we added steak to our menu as well.

One day the man who serviced our juke box and pinball machines was inquiring about the business. He indicated he would be interested in buying the restaurant and so we sold Polack’s Resort to Jack and Katie McFarlin.”

Jack and Katie McFarlin are gone now, but their daughter LaVon Stolp of Oronoco shares some of her memories here.

“I had just finished the eighth grade at Central High School in Rochester when Dad and Mom said we were moving to the White Bridge. They had bought a restaurant called “T-Bone’s” from Jack and Dolly Prokasky. It was the summer of 1950 or 1951. I had no idea where this place was. Dad was working for Mayo Priebe who owned machines like pinball, jukeboxes, etc. Dad would stop in at White Bridge to service the machines, count and take the money, change the records, and I guess that is how he happened to know it was for sale. I have no idea how much they paid for it. The building was just the bar and porch section where the salad bar is kept now, also bathrooms and a small kitchen.

The menu was Chicken in a Basket, Barbecue Ribs, tenderized steak, and hamburgers and French fries, of course. Dad would get the chickens that were already cleaned from a Mrs. Stiller who lived just outside Oronoco on Highway 52. He would layer them between pieces of ice in a big wash tub and have them in a walk-in cooler. Our meat came from Erdman’s Meat Market in Kasson. Mr. Erdman delivered it himself and always stayed to eat.

My Mother was a wonderful cook. I waited on customers and learned how to cook from her. I don’t think I was paid very much as a wage, but I did get some good tips and made many friends of our customers. Our potatoes were peeled in a round barrel-shaped machine. It was my brother Bill’s job to tend the machine. When the peelings had all been worn off, we cut the potatoes with a French fry cutter.

One time Mom cut her finger really bad and had to go to Pine Island for stitches. I think it was Dr. McKaig who took care of her.

We got our fresh vegetables from Gamble Robinson’s in Rochester. Everything had to be cleaned, all from scratch, nothing precooked, except the ribs. They were already hickory smoked and Mom just had to brush on her secret sauce when she broiled them.

They later expanded the menu to include shrimp, scallops, pike, and also T-bone steaks.”

(Evidently, T-bone himself never served T-bone steaks when he owned the restaurant.)

LaVon continued “We had French and American fries, but no baked potatoes back then. I cooked and cleaned so many shrimp that I can’t stand them to this day. However, my mother’s batter recipe was the best I have ever tasted. I used to fry onion rings one at a time. They were perfect and so good. Bill and I used to make our own potato chips and that was fun. Boy, all the hamburgers and French fries we wanted! But soon you really didn’t care anymore. Mother made tartar sauce by the gallons and had some customers who would want a quart or so to take home. I still use that same recipe today.

We had a girl named Frances who came to help mother before the kitchen opened making the salad and doing other things. One day, she didn’t put her car in park and after she came in, her car rolled over the bank and into the lake. She was quite concerned because there was a musical instrument in the back seat that one of her children played. She thought her husband would be very upset with her. Another bad thing I remember were times when someone drowned in the lake. That happened several times while we were there.

When we first moved there we had free shows (outdoor movies). I don’t know how often, maybe twice a month anyway. Everyone looked forward to them, but then Dad announced we were getting a TV instead. Who needs a TV? The shows were more fun. People could sit on blankets or in their cars, bring snacks, and enjoy the show. I suppose it didn’t bring much money into the restaurant, however.

We had a few boats that people would rent for fishing or just riding around the lake. It was a much nicer lake then. You could come from Cedar Beach by boat and dock out front, come up and have a nice dinner, and then go from there. The bridge was also there and you could make the rounds, as they say, stop at Fogarty’s and then Sandy Point. I think people did a lot of drinking and driving at that time. The place would be packed on weekends and Mom didn’t close the kitchen until 11:30 or 12:00 midnight so customers would come from dances and stop for a burger and fries before they went home.

Dad had the building jacked up and had living quarters built below the restaurant. We had three bedrooms, a bath, living room, kitchen, storeroom, and furnace room. Before that we lived in a few different places, across the bridge in a small cabin, also a farm house, and a trailer; so living downstairs was a real treat for us, and we had some good times there.

The business was open at about 5:00 p.m. week days and earlier on Saturday and Sunday. It was closed on Mondays and that was my only day off. I missed most of the things teenagers do because I had to come home from school and go to work. Looking back, it was a good life. I didn’t get into much trouble. I met Larry there and we went together for four years and married in 1956.

Mom and Dad sold the place to Carl and Florence Richert from the Elgin area in about 1958. They were customers and then became friends, I guess. By that time I no longer lived there.”

Richerts did not have the restaurant very long before they sold it to the O’Malley’s. Not very long after that Mr. O’Malley died suddenly. Mrs. O’Malley put the place up for auction.

At that time, Don and Ruth Schmidt ran a restaurant across the lake. It started as a root-beer stand. They added onto it and made an indoor restaurant. They named it after their two daughters Kelly and Koni. It was called the “Kel-Kon.” When they heard that the O’Malley restaurant was up for sale, they made a bid on it. Turned out that they were the highest bidder so they took over the place. Now they owned two restaurants, one on each side of the lake. They named their new purchase “Fisherman’s Inn.” They remodeled the building somewhat and added a room. The very day they were laying the carpet in the new room was the day that the accident happened which destroyed White Bridge.

In 1972 the bridge was accidentally struck by a car driven by Vernon Jahnke who came from the west and struck a crucial supporting beam. Over half of the bridge fell into the river. Mr. Jahnke was a teacher at John Marshall High School in Rochester. His driving ability may have been impaired by medicine given to him when released from the hospital. He survived, and it is believed he was not charged for the accident.

Schmidts had to drive the long way around to get to the other side of the bridge to tend to both businesses. They soon decided to put the Kel-Kon up for sale. A family named Berg (Wava, David, Barbara, and Porky) bought it first and then they sold it to Rick and Mary Chapman. Either the Bergs or the Chapmans changed the name to Fun City. After many years, the Chapman’s sold it to Jim and Connie Hasley who named it “Party Cove Bar and Grill.” Though it now has a similar name to a topless bar in Florida, it remains the same kind of family restaurant as was when the former people owned it. Here is a link to the web site of the Party Cove Bar and Grill:

A Bailey bridge was loaned to the County by the U.S. Corps of Civil Engineers and served for a few years until the new Sandy Point Bridge was built further up the river. At that time, the Bailey bridge was returned to the Corps. The remaining abutment on the west is now used as a fishing location. The east end has been entirely removed.

The Engineers Working on the Bailey Bridge

The Bailey Bridge Being Moved in Place

Another View of the Bailey Bridge

The romance of LaVon McFarlin and Larry Stolp is not the only one that happened in the area of the Fisherman’s Inn. When White Bridge was destroyed, a boy who lived on the east side of the river was dating a girl who lived on the west side. He was forced to row across the river to see his sweetheart. The couple was later married. It is no secret that the boy was Mike Fogarty and the girl was Norma Kubista.

Don Schmidt was a great entrepreneur and a good judge of character. He once said of some of the employees that they were either “born waitresses” or “born cooks.” He complimented a couple of the girls by saying they were good at both jobs. One of his favorite waitresses, to be sure, was his mother Ann Schmidt who worked way past retirement age. She was in her late 80’s when she quit. They also hired a lot of young kids and found themselves helping to parent many of them.

The next owner was Nick and Pat Bowlus. Nick had come back from the Korean conflict and he and a buddy, Don Williams, decided that they wanted to run a beauty shop. They went to school and learned how to be beauticians. Over the next few years Nick won several awards for his hair styling. They started the Fashion-aire Beauty Salon on 7th Street NW in Rochester. Although they no longer own the Fashion-aire, the business that they started has continued for over 50 years. When Nick left it, Don took over. When he retired, he sold the business to the current owners, Ervin and Eileen Berg.

It was in 1977 that Nick and Pat decided to buy the Fisherman’s Inn from Don and Ruth Schmidt. They continued to serve many of the same foods, but they also enlarged the building. They, too, managed to help parent some of their employees, mostly neighborhood kids. Especially, Pat; the kids all loved her. Nick was a bit harder to get to know. He was strict because he knew what was needed to run a successful business and keep the customers coming back, but he often talked very fast and was difficult to understand. He ran a good restaurant.

Nick loved to fry different foods dipped in batter to see how people might like them. Besides the fish and shrimp, he batter-fried onions, mushrooms, cheese curds, carrot sticks, cabbage hearts, cauliflower, and even one time batter-fried a Snickers bar.

The kids that worked for Pat tell of what a wonderful boss she was. She was strict about the work and could get on their case if they did something they shouldn’t. One girl tells how one day when they weren’t busy, they decided to write their names in the grease that had collected on the walls and ceiling. Of course they didn’t expect to get caught. Pat walked in on them and had such a look on her face that they were afraid she was going to fire the lot of them. However, all she said was “Everyone who has written their name can now get some cleaning cloths and wash the walls and the ceiling.” The kids did exactly as she told them.

Pat always had the kids help clean up at the end of the day; nobody went home until the place was cleaned up and ready for the next day. Most of the time, they sat down and ate together after it was closed. When it was hot outside, they would go out and jump in the lake with their clothes on. Those that didn’t want to do that would sit on deck chairs and visit with one another. After a very busy Sunday such as Easter or Mothers’ Day, Pat and Nick would take all the employees to Perkins in Rochester to treat them for all their hard work. They treated their employees as if they were just one big happy family.

They stayed there for 10 years, which is quite a long time compared to earlier owners. Many of their employees stayed a long time with them, which says something about what good employers they were.

Over these years, many people in this area have eaten at this fine restaurant. Many others have worked there. In our family, all of our five children have worked there, and one daughter, Rita Kirchner, has been there over 20 years, working her way up from teen age bus girl to General Manager. She started working for Nick and Pat in 1977 and has continued to work there for the Petersons. She has a chef’s certificate and is well known for her delicious soups and cheesecakes. She was always interested in cooking and she learned a lot from home, I hope, but also from Patty Bowlus who knew how to cook restaurant food. Our family has become so familiar with the Fisherman’s Inn that we have a nickname for it, often referring to it as “The Fish.”

The U.S. Postal Department uses the name “White Bridge” for the street which runs along Highway 12. The street that leads off the White Bridge Road and goes to the location where White Bridge used to be is now called Fisherman Drive NW. The official number for the road is 118. Highway 12 was rerouted and now goes on east to where a new bridge was built across the Zumbro. It is commonly called the Sandy Point Bridge.

The Street Sign where Fisherman Drive Intersects with White Bridge Road

Each of the owners added new items to their menus and built on or remodeled in some way to improve the restaurant. It has turned into a very fine place to dine. It has come a long way from being just a snack bar for the local fishermen.

In 1987, the restaurant was purchased by the Peterson family. Jim, his wife Theresa, and his parents, Ralph and Esther were partners in this venture. This article is being written in 2009 which tells you how long the Petersons have stayed. They have outlasted any of the earlier owners. Ralph Peterson was a Lourdes coach in the 1950’s and Esther worked in restaurants for 40 years. She was the first waitress that Perkins hired when they came to Rochester.

Jim Peterson, Rita Kirchner, Esther, and Ralph Peterson

Ralph and Esther retired from the business a few years ago. Ralph passed away in 2007. Jim and Theresa have three children who were toddlers when they bought the restaurant. They are now approaching adulthood. Remember the commercial where the cute little girl said about the food that it was “mighty tasty”? She is all grown up now and continues to be an asset to the business.

Fisherman’s Inn Web Site

Along with the restaurant, the owners had responsibility for the boat docking ramp on the west end of the property. It was a thriving business of its own that needed an employee to collect money for docking and to sell items from the snack shop that was built beside the dock

In a newspaper article from the Rochester Post Bulletin, there is this statement: “The inn seats 130 in two sections, one of them a raised roof wing built on in 1979 to handle the crowds. Its deck has been expanded for water shows Wednesday evenings in the summer. The Petersons hope to add a bar on the deck and they’re renovating the small kitchen.”

The Rochester Water Ski Show has been held for many years in front of the Fisherman’s Inn every Wednesday night between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This is an event that draws customers to the Fisherman’s Inn. Click on the following link for more information about the ski show:

At one time, there was quite a bit of competition for the Fisherman’s Inn in the area of White Bridge. To the south along the river was Sandy Point, a restaurant which was recently sold and is now a row of town houses on the lake called “The Dwellings.” Across the river from the Fisherman’s Inn on one side there was once a bar and restaurant called Fogarty’s. Mrs. Mary Fogarty’s hamburgers received high praise from many a fisher person. Fogarty’s is no longer in business.

Fisherman’s Inn – 2007

Not Advertising; just part of History

Fishing Pier Where White Bridge Used to Be

Another View of Fishing Pier Where White Bridge Was

After many years of bad usage, the Zumbro River has lots of problems and is in need of dredging and other recovery projects. The Zumbro River Recovery organization is working to try to restore the Zumbro to a better condition. Here is the link to that organization’s web site:

Hopefully, there will be many more good years ahead for the Zumbro River and for the Fisherman’s Inn.

Oronoco Optimists 4H

(This article was written by Hazel Markham and was included in the secretary’s book that may have been sent to the Extension Office. Permission was granted by the author to Mrs. Elsie Boutelle to be included in her book Oronoco, Past and Present, which she wrote in 1983. Elsie’s entire book is also on display at the History Center.)

It seemed impossible to substantiate the earliest date that was the actual beginning of the Oronoco Optimists 4-H Club. From interviews with some of the people who were there at the meeting in which the name was selected, it appears that the Oronoco Optimists existed for at least a year before it became officially recognized by the Olmsted County 4-H office.

Karl Glabe recalls two teachers, Catherine Brockner and Florence Buschow, from the Oronoco Public School, who came to him and asked him to help start a 4-H club. Since school records show that Miss Brockner started teaching in Oronoco in the fall of 1934, it seems likely that the year to which Karl refers must have been 1934. Karl says about 60 or 70 young people showed up at the first meeting. Many of that number failed to continue with the club when they realized something more than just a place to go and have fun. The remaining members formed the Oronoco Optimists, and began the organization as a learning and helping group. However, they also had fun. They held picnics, hayrides, basket socials, and square dances. They played games, a favorite being “Winkum.”

The Oronoco Optimists may have selected their name from the outlook that many of them had. It was unusual in those times since the depression had caused hardships for nearly everyone. Maybe not so unusual, though, for many people say, “All we had, was our optimism.” Many members who were interviewed, recall being at the naming meeting, but can’t remember how the choice came about.

In 1935, Olmsted County Extension Agent, Henry, Henry Mayo, and 4-H Agent, Mrs. Edna Coulson encouraged existing clubs throughout the county to become official 4-H clubs. They also helped new clubs to form. For the first time since 1931, there were a number of 4-H clubs in Olmsted County, and one of them was the Oronoco Optimists 4-H Club. So its official birth year was 1935. At that time there were 18 clubs in Olmsted County.

Going back a little, in 1930, the county agent’s annual report mentions no 4-H clubs, but in 1931, ten 4-H clubs are mentioned. One of the ten was the Oronoco Willing Workers. It is not known if this was a fore-runner of the Optimists. The officers of the Willing Workers were as follows: President: Virginia Postier; Vice President and News Reporter: Dorothy Newell; and Secretary and Treasurer: Frances Becker.

The depression created a hardship for organizations of this type, and the government couldn’t provide help for a few years. Whether these are the years or not, in 1932, 1933, and 1934, there was almost no 4-H work being done in Olmsted County according to the Emergency Agriculture Agents’ annual reports.

When the official Oronoco Optimists 4-H Club was recognized in 1935, the leaders chosen were Mr. and Mrs. William Lubahn, Karl Glabe, and Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Kujath. Others who helped were the aforementioned teachers, and also Mr. and Mrs. Robert Heins The officers’ names are not available, nor the number of members because no secretary’s book was turned in that year. A peak year was 1939 when there were 50 members. The meetings were held in the Oronoco School House and sometimes in the members’ homes. Lunch was furnished by the parents of members, and also the members themselves. The average age of the 4-H members at that time was much older than the present age. Many teenagers were members, and some were as old as 21. The 4-H meeting was a high point in the lives of many of the members, and also their families. The whole family would go to the meetings. Remember that this was in the days before television. Automobile travel was done only on a minimal scale. The family car didn’t go unless it was full, and then it didn’t go afar. Some of the young people found 4-H meetings their only opportunity to meet members of the opposite sex, unless they met them in church gatherings; or it they were lucky enough to go to school beyond the eighth grade, which many of them were not.

It might be said that these early years were the “hey-day” for the Oronoco Optimists. Its membership was great both in number, and in active participation. Its leadership was outstanding. The County 4-H was becoming able to do more for 4-H work than it ever had in the past. It was also able at that time to give more attention towards helping the few existing clubs, than it has since, because of the increase in the number of clubs throughout the country.

Although the Oronoco Optimists Club was the farthest North in the County, they held year-around meetings. They had a club tour every year, and received a seal on their charter and a blue ribbon for their high rating on Mr. Ray Aune’s achievement chart. They participated in county events, exhibited at the county fair, and sent winners to the state fair. They sent members to 4-H camp at Kamp Kahler, Camp Frontenac, and to St. Paul for 4-H Week. They had a one-act play each year for several years, and their entries in country home talent shows were usually top winners. Talent was abundant in the club in those days.

Gerald Tiedeman and his brother, Virgil, entertained the group with instrumental duets. Gerald played the accordion and Virgil played both the guitar and the mouth organ. Listeners enjoyed their old-time dance music. Together with their father Louis, who played the violin, they also provided the dance music for many a house party. Gerald and Virgil helped the Oronoco Optimists to win blue ribbons in the county talent contests.

Another pair of Oronoco Optimists entertained at their club meetings and were also featured in county events and on the 4-H radio program. They were sisters Vina and Virginia Culver, who harmonized and accompanied themselves on their guitars. Their specialty was singing lovely ballads such as “Old Shep,” “Cowboy Jack,” and “My Pretty Quadroon.”

Others entertained at the meetings by singing or playing instruments. Still others told jokes and riddles, or gave short literary or humorous readings.

The Oronoco Optimists had a booth at the fair every year in those early years. They were also kitten ball champions of Olmsted County for a number of seasons. The girls had a kitten ball team, too, and had their own uniforms; however, it was the boys’ team that won the championships. William Lubahn was their manager.

Those were the best of times in other ways, too. The Rochester businessmen were doing great things for 4-H work. The radio station gave 4-H a chance to use their medium for their talents, and the local newspaper gave 4-H much coverage, even to the point of listing every member’s fair exhibit placing in the newspaper. In those days, if a club’s reporter sent a 4-H story to the paper, it would be printed in the Post Bulletin.

The Gypsy Frolic was an entirely different type of even then than it is today. The Rochester Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, and it was held in the Mayo Civic Auditorium. The attendance was usually in the neighborhood of 6000. Games were played, dances were held, sometimes ____sing a big name band and professional entertainers. A pageant was conducted during the evening, in which a queen and her attendants were chosen and crowned. These queen candidates were chosen on the basis of the percentage of ticket sales their club was responsible for. They were usually very lovely young ladies chosen by their club members to represent them . After the make-up committee got through with them, their beauty was all but hidden behind the typical gypsy-type costumes and make up. Pictures of the 1970 Gypsy Frolic are on file at the Olmsted County Extension Office contained in the annual report for that year. These include a picture of the queen and her court when Oronoco Optimists’ Virginia Culver was queen.

Other Oronoco Optimists who made history by being mentioned in the county agents’ annual reports were Willis Lubahn who took his champion Chester-White pig Patsy to the Minnesota State Fair in 1936; Orville Lubahn, who took his sheep in 1937; and Russell Morrow, who took his colt in 1938. Champions in different years were for corn, Harvey Mohlke; pig, Ernest Lubahn; and canning demonstrations, Gladys Lubahn and Marilyn Swarthout. In 1941 Myra Mohlke was an attendant to the Gypsy Frolic queen, and in 1942 Gladys Lubahn received that same honor. There were other members mentioned for their special contributions. Here is a partial list: Corn winners were Arvin Lubahn, Calvin Lubahn, and Bernard Markham. Winners for potatoes were Orville Lubahn, Gerald Tiedeman, and Larry Stolp. Their leader, William Lubahn, also served on the county board of directors.

The Oronoco Optimists membership dropped in 1944, very likely due to the World War II. Many of the members went into the armed forces. Others became too busy on the farm and in factories in their efforts to help the defense of our country. Gerald Tiedeman, secretary of the club in 1944, wrote this poignant message in his secretary’s book. “When this club was started, it was much the same as the beginning of the

United States. It was started by just a handful. Then it almost ended when a few quit, just as when starvation hit in 1621, the first winter that a group of white men had spent in a group or colony. Then it grew steadily. It flourished, but then another crisis struck, and from this blow, it has not recovered. It’s this war, World War II.”

Also in 1944, an attempt was made by the county 4-H agent , along with the help of the schools to increase the number of 4-H clubs. At that time, the Oronoco Bushwhackers 4-H club was formed with seven members under the leadership of Fern Cowden. However, that club did not exist in the 1945 and later annual reports.

The Oronoco Optimists 4-H Club did continue, though, but they participated somewhat less actively with each succeeding year.

A complete change-over of membership and leaders took place. As the youngsters graduated from 4-H, their parents, of whom many were leaders, retired from leadership, and new members and leaders showed up on the rolls. Mr. and Mrs. William Lubahn had been leaders of the Oronoco Optimists for 15 years. All of their nine children were members over the course of that time. In 1951, the Lubahn children were no longer members. The parents retired as leaders at that time. Mrs. And Mrs. Lubahn contributed much toward making the Oronoco Optimists 4-H Club the success that it was.

A list of leaders accompanies this report. There is also a partial list of members; however, this list is not complete, because all of the secretaries’ books were not turned into the county office. These secretaries’ books are the only documents the extension office retains except the county agent’s annual reports, which do not contain much of each club’s individual information. So if no secretary’s book was turned in, then no record of members exists for that year. There are also some youngsters who attended 4-H meetings, but never enrolled as members, and these will not be listed either.

After 1951, the club continued to decrease in membership and in participation in county events. Throughout the county the membership has gradually switched from mostly rural to mostly urban and suburban. Another situation that began to occur was the competition from the other clubs in the area for our potential members. Many parents became unable to help because of mothers working, and other demands on their time. The polio epidemic caused a membership drop and less participation because of the public apprehension about contagion from county-wide meetings. The discovery of a preventive vaccine has helped this situation to be resolved.

Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Muller, and others were very helpful is the club throughout these years. Winners on the county level during this period, were Judy King, good grooming, and Kenneth Hoerner for his corn and potato exhibits. In 1957 the club won a blue ribbon for its one-act play.

In 1959 the club did not complete the year and did not reorganize the following year, nor the one after that.

Rebirth came in the fall of 1961, with the aid of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry McVay, Mrs. Wilbur Krause, and Mrs. Barbara Smallbrock. This proved to be another flourishing time for the Oronoco Optimists, as membership peaked to 37 in 1963. Mr. and Mrs. McVay moved from the community within the first year. New leaders were chosen, and again, meeting in the Oronoco Schoolhouse, year-‘round meetings were held, and active county participation occurred. The members demonstrated and entertained at their local meetings. Games were played, even “Winkum” came back to life. They exhibited in the county fair and had a booth nearly every year. They won a blue ribbon for their 1963 booth based on dairy foods, and another blue ribbon for their miniature village of Oronoco in 1968.

In 1963 Deborah Millard and Mark Fuerstenau gave performances in the Share-the-Fun Festival. The following year, a group of “hillbillies” were sent to the festival to sing “I Like Mountain Music.”

In 1965 a quartet of girls, Cheryl Tiedeman, Jeannine Markham, Rose Lubahn, and Carol Lubahn sang “Downtown” at the talent show. It is believed that their performance was the last entry of the Oronoco Optimists 4-H Club in the Share the Fun Festival up to the present time. There was still talent among its members; however, they seemed to be reluctant to perform in public. Perhaps, in this day and age, when television and electronic equipment have allowed performances to become more professional, the amateur entertainer feels inadequate. Many youngsters, today, are involved in so many activities, they hardly have time to perfect their performances. Also audiences are less appreciative now than they were in the past. We are all such experts today that we have nothing but unkind criticism for the unpolished performer. We are all losers in this respect. Much can be gained from the opportunity to display amateur talent, both by the performers and the audience.

Membership dropped to between 12 to 17 in the late 1960s. This, in a time when the Olmsted County membership had increased from 539 in 1935 to 1003 in 1966. The number of clubs went from 17 to 37 in this period.

However, the Oronoco Optimists left were active members, and their leadership was good, and so they have remained active up to the present time.

In 1975 upon the graduation from 4-H of the Siems and Campbell families, it appeared as though membership would drop too low for survival. A membership drive was held and new members attracted. That fall, there were 20 members. However, in March 1976, the membership was down to 15. Since 4-H has something to offer to its members, it would be great to see the Oronoco Optimists continue, and grow in the future.

Let’s encourage our youngsters to get involved in 4-H. Members can make their club whatever they choose. It can be a chance for them to become better persons than they might have been without it. In these days of great population and large schools, this type of membership in a local 4-H club can help youngsters become more a person and less a number.

A chart of membership accompanies this report as well as a list of leaders and members.

Much thanks to all who helped on this report. Special thanks to Mrs. Shirley Koenig, Secretary at the Olmsted County Extension Office, all club secretaries who turned in their books, the county agents who made out their annual reports, and Mrs. Alton W. Pagel, who wrote “The 4-H Store—Olmsted County,” and to the numerous people who granted me personal interviews, thank you all so very much.

Sincerely, Hazel Markham

Membership Totals:
1934 – Approx 60-70
1935 – Approx 42
1936 – 32
1937 – 37
1938 – 38
1939 – 50
1940 – 48
1941 – 45
1942 -1943 -26
1944 – 22
1945 – 21
1946 – 12
1947 – 16
1948 – 33
1949 – 50
1950 – 33
1951 – 16
1952 – 14
1953 – 26
1954 – 12
1955 – 21
1956 -1957 -1958 -12
1959 – 12
1960 – 0
1961 – 0
1962 – 29
1963 – 37
1964 – 22
1965 – 17
1966 – 19
1967 – 13
1968 – 16
1969 – 16
1970 – 17
1971 – 14
1972 – 15
1973 – 12
1974 – 12
1975 – 11
1976 – 15
* The year used is the second figure in a two figure year. For example: 1934 is the year 1933–1934. This is the year in which the fair was held and the member completed his projects.

A Partial List of Members from 1934 to 1976:

Ackerman, Delphine – 1941

Ackerman, Dorrine – 1941

Ackerman, Edwin – 1951, 1952

Atkinson, Kay – 1947, 1949

Becker, Hazel – 1937

Bowers, Darlene – 1954, 1955

Bradley, Michelle – 1976

Brown, Shirley – 1941

Campbell, Keith – 1962 – 1968

Campbell, Kent – 1965 – 1974

Carlon, Catherine – 1955

Carlon, Edward – 1955

Carlon, Sylvia – 1949

Carroll, James – 1944, ‘45, ‘49, ‘50

Carroll, Nancy – 1952, 1955

Carroll, Suzanne – 1949, ’50, ‘52

Clark, Allen – 1937

Clark, Carol – 1940-’41, ‘44

Clark, David – 1949-1950

Clark, Donald – 1949-1950

Clark, Karen – 1950

Clark, Ruth – 1937 thru 1941

Clark, Shirley – 1937 thru 1940

Cowden, Eddie – 1955

Cowden, Joan – 1937

Cowden, Marian – 1937

Culver, Aaron – 1945, ’46. ‘47

Culver, Grant – 1940 – 1941

Culver, Roy (Walter) – ’44 thru ‘47

Culver, Vina – ’34 – ‘40

Culver, Virginia – ’34 – ‘41

Dallman, Zoei – 1976

Dingler, Blaine – 1938

Ferber, Lori – 1974 thru 1976

Ferguson, Dale – 1955

Ferguson, Duane – 1955

Fogarty, Doreen – 1950

Frutiger, Carolyn – 1952

Frutiger, Ruth – 1944 thru 1947

Frutiger Virginia (Peggy) – ‘47 thru ‘5 3

Frutiger, William – 1944 thru 1953

Fuchs, Kenneth – 1950, 1955

Fuerstenau, Charles – 1963

Fuerstenau, Jim – 1963

Fuerstenau, Joel – 1963

Fuerstenau, Mark – 1963

Gillies, James – 1947 thru 1950

Glasenapp, Larry – 1949-1950

Glasenapp, Richard – 1949–1950

Greene, David – 1954

Haglund, Brenda – 1975 – 1976

Haglund, Lisa – 1976

Haglund, Marcia – 1963 – 1964

Haglund, Marilyn – 1937 – 1938

Hall, Lyle W. – 1937 – 1938

Hanson, Alan – 1976

Hanson, Alana – 1976

Hardtke, Charles – 1937 – 1938

Harvey, Harold – 1947

Harwood, Boyd – 1945

Hawkins, David – 1955

Hawkins, Richard – 1955

Heins, Katherine – 1937

Henderson, Areline – 1940, 1941

Hoerner, Kenneth – 1958 – 1959

Hoffman, Julie – 1976

Holland, Helen – 1941

Horsman, Dana – 1955

Horsman, David – 1955

Horsman, Marcia – 1963, 1964, 1965

Horsman, Robert – 1955

House, Cindy – 1969 thru 1974

House, Craig – 1970 – 1971

House, Glenda – 1971 – 1974

House, Pamela – 1969 – 1974

Hovel, Benjamin – 1968

Irelan, Jane – 1966 thru 1970

Irelan, Robert – 1966 thru 1968

Johnson, Kathleen – 1963 thru 1966

Johnson, Laura – 1963 – 1966

King, Dolores – 1945, 1946

King, Duane – 1964

King, Gary – 1964

King, Harold – 1938

King, Judy – 1955

King, Raymond – 1944, 1945

King, Sherrie – 1950

King, Shirley – 1964

King, Willard – 1944, 1945, 1946

Koenig, Betty – 1947

Koenig, Bob – 1944 thru 1949

Koenig, Charles – 1949

Koenig, Cyril – 1938 –thru 1941

Koenig, Gordon – 1950

Koenig, Gretta Mae – 1939 thru 1941

Koenig, Jerry – 1963

Koenig, Lonna – 1963

Koenig, LuAnn – 1963

Krause, Albert – 1962 thru 1964

Krause, Carl – 1962 thru 1964

Krause, Margaret – 1962 thru 1964

Krause, Merle – 1962 thru 1964

Kujath, Audrey – 1940

Kujath, Marilyn – 1936 thru 1939

Kujath, Mentor – 1936 thru 1939

Kunz, Dorothy – 1937 – 1939

Lubahn, Arvin – 1935 thru 1944

Lubahn, Calvin – 1935 thru 1944

Lubahn, Carol – 1964, 1965

Lubahn, Darrell – 1944 thru 1950

Lubahn, Ernest – 1940 thru 1948

Lubahn, Gladys – 1936 thru 1946

Lubahn, Gordon – 1949 thru 1952

Lubahn, Lyle – 1939 thru 1948

Lubahn, Orville – 1936 thru 1941

Lubahn, Robert – 1964

Lubahn, Rose Ann – 1963 thru 1965

Lubahn, Willis – 1935 thru 1942

Maricle, Christine – 1965 thru 1967

Maricle, Clayton – 1967

Maricle, Roxanne – 1965 thru 1967

Markham, Bernard – 1940 thru 1946

Markham, Doris Mae – 1940-1941

Markham, Howard – 1975-1976

Markham, Jane Ellen – 1962 thru 1964

Markham, Jeannine – 1962 thru 1966

Markham, Leon – 1944 thru 1947

Markham, Leonard – 1940, 1941

Markham, Nancy – 1962

Markham, Patricia – 1969 thru 1974

Markham, Rita – 1972 thru 1976

Markham, Thomas – 1968, 1969

Markham, William C. – 1940 thru 1944

Martin, Mary – 1972

Mattox, Sue- 1955

Meurley, James – 1940

Meurley, Darlene – 1949, 1950

Meyers, Darlene – 1949, 1950

Meyers, Kathy – 1963

Meyers, Violet – 1949, 1950

Millard, Debra- 1963 thru 1966

Millard, Laurrine – 1963 thru 1966

Millard, Nancy – 1965, 1966

Millard, Sandra – 1963 thru 1966

Mills, Sylvia – 1950

Mohlke, Ervin – 1935 thru 1938

Mohlke, Harold – 1940, 1941

Mohlke, Harvey – 1938 thru 1941

Mohlke, John – 1963

Mohlke, Myra – 1938 thru 1941

Mohlke, Steven – 1962

Morrow, Russell – 1937 thru 1941

Moulton, Lavahn – 1941

Muller, Ann – 1955

Muller, Joy – 1952 thru 1955

Muller, Scott – 1955

Myhre, Grant – 1962

Nelson, Iva – 1938

Ondler, Lee – 1970 thru 1972

Ottman, Orin – 1941

Pieffer, Donna – 1944

Postier, Lorraine – 1939, 1940

Postier, Richard – 1935 thru 1937

Postier, Russell – 1938, 1939

Rawson, Bruce – 1939

Richardt, Leslie – 1940

Riettman, Irene – 1936

Riettman, Sandra – 1951

Ritter, Everett 1938, 1939

Robb, Albert – 1940

Robb, Floyd – 1940

Robb, Helen – 1940

Robb, Ruth – 1940

Rodrick, Mary Ruth – 1041

Roeber, Julie – 1969

Rollie, Connie – 1968 thru 1972

Rollie, Laurie – 1968 thru 1975

Roseboom, James – 1950

Roseboom, John – 1950

Rucker, Cindy – 1976

Rucker, Ronnie – 1976

Rueber, Floyd – 1955

Scharberg, Rhonda – 1971 thru 1973

Schmidt, Deanna – 1949 thru 1952

Schriever, Floyd – 1935 thru 1937

Schriever, Howard – 1937 thru 1945

Schriever, Lester 0 1944 thru 1948

Shaler, Sheri – 1949, 1950

Siems, Allen – 1940, 1941

Siems, Dennis – 1962 thru 1970

Siems, Douglas – 1966 thru 1973

Siems, Joyce – 1945 thru 1947

Siems, Kenneth – 1950

Siems, Margaret – 1945 thru 1942

Siems, Olive – 1940, 1941

Siems, Pamela – 1963 thru 1973

Siems, Patricia – 1965 thru 1974

Siems, Vern – 1940

Smallbrock, Madeline – 1962

Smallbrock, Marshal – 1962

Smallbrock, Myron – 1962

Smith, Myrtle – 1937 thru 1941

Stahman, Tim – 1976

Stephan, Sharon, 1950

Stewart, Barbara – 1950, 1951

Stewart, Raymond – 1937, 1938

Stiller, Gordon – 1962

Stiller, Marsha – 1962

Stolp, Barbara – 1955

Stolp, Beverly – 1950 thru 1952

Stolp, Larry – 1947 thru 1951

Stolp, Sandra – 1955

Stolp, Sharon – 1955

Streiff, Donna – 1949, 1950

Streiff, Janet – 1953

Swarthout, Glen – 1940, 1941

Swarthout, Marilyn – 1937 thru 1941

Swarthout, Wayne – 1941

Templeton, Amy – 1976

Tiedeman, Cheryl – 1962 thru 1969

Tiedeman, Gerald – 1937 thru 1946

Tiedeman, Jean – 1967 thru 1976

Tiedeman, John – 1962 thru 1971

Tiedeman, Virgil – 1934 thru 1941

Thompson, Joe – 1949, 1950

Tupper, Eric – 1975

Tupper, Paul – 1975

Tupper, Peter – 1975

Van Kirk, Joe – 1949

Van Kirk, Jimmy – 1949

Vanderberg, Catherine – 1939

Vanderberg, Gordon – 1961

Vanderberg, Margaret – 1939

Vanderberg, William – 1937 thru 1939

Warner, Shirley – 1950

Whipple, Dolores – 1952

Wilke, Harlow – 1947 thru 1950

Wilke, Shirley – 1947 thru 1950

Williamson, Cecil – 1936 thru 1939

Williamson, Doris – 1940

Williamson, Dorothy – 1936 thru 1940

Williamson, Mabel – 1936 thru 1940

Wilson, Paul – 1937 thru 1939

Wittlief, Esther – 1939 thru 1941

Wittlief, Gerald – 1949 thru 1952

Wittlief, Larry – 1949 thru 1952

Wittlief, Matthew – 1967, 1968

Oronoco Optimists 4-H Club Leaders

Bowers, Mrs. Lyle – 1954

Brookner, Catherine – 1934

Buschow, Florence – 1934

Campbell, John – 1966

Campbell, Mrs. John – 1963 thru 1973

Carlon, John – 1958, 1959

Carlon, Mrs. John – 1958, 1959

Culver, Ross – 1941 thru 1943

Culver, Mrs. Ross – 1941 thru 1943

Ferber, Mrs. James – 1975, 1976

Frutiger, Louis – 1946, 1947

Frutiger, Mrs. Louis – 1946, 1947

Glabe, Karl – 1934 thru 1938

Haglund, Ronald – 1976

Haglund, Mrs. Ron (Pat) – 1976

Hanson, Mrs. Alan – 1976

Heins, Robert – 1934

Heins, Mrs. Robert – 1934

Hoerner, Anthony – 1958, 1959

Hoerner, Mrs. Anthony – 1958, 1959

Holzer, Howard – 1957

Horsman, Ervin – 1957 thru 1959

Horsman, Mrs. Ervin – 1957 thru 1959

House, Mrs. Donald – 17 thru 1973

King, Andrew – 1946

King, Norman – 1951

King, Mrs. Norman – 1951

Krause, Mrs. Wilbur – 1962, 1963

Kujath, Mrs. Edwin – 1935 thru 1940

Lubahn, William – 1936 thru 1950

Lubahn, Mrs. William – 1936 thru 1950

Lubahn, Mrs. Orville – 1964, 1965

Markham, Mrs. Wm – 1963, ‘64, ’65, ’66, 69, ‘70, ‘72, ‘73, ‘74, & ‘76

McVay, Mrs. Gerald – 1962

Millard, Cecil – 1963 thru 1965

Muller, Marvin – 1952 thru 1959

Muller, Mrs. Marvin – 1952 thru 1958

Rucker, Merrill – 1951 thru 1953

Rucker, Mrs. Merrill – 1952 thru 1958

Rucker, Mrs. Jack – 1976

Siems, Pamela – 1974, 1975

Siems, Patricia – 1975

Siems, Harley – 1963, ’64, ’65, ‘66, ’69, ’70, ‘75

Siems, Mrs. Harley – 1970 thru 1975

Smallbrock, Mrs. Barbara – 1962

Stolp, Mrs. Melvin – 1954, 1955

Stolp, Mrs. Wesley – 1954, 1955

Swenson, Mrs. Virginia – 1968, 1969

Tiedeman, Gerald – 1951 thru 1971

Tiedeman, Mrs. Gerald – 1951 & 1963 thru 1976

Van Kirk, Joe – 1949, 1950

Van Kirk, Mrs. Joe – 1949. 1950

Ward, Mrs. Howard – 1955

Weick, Mrs. Charles – 1972, 1975

Wittlief, Mrs. Kenneth 1969

Wittlief, Randall – 1953, 1955

Wittlief, Mrs. Randall – 1953, ’55, ’58

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