In 1941 when my father was getting ready to marry my mother, they needed a place to live. My father still lived with his parents on the “home place,” the original farmstead settled by his grandfather in 1871. In fact, my father was even born in that house. But he and my mother really needed a place of their own. Too many Norwegians under one roof has never been a good idea.
On the north edge of the family farm was an old house, about a half mile from the home place, which my grandfather had rented out for 25 years to Martin and Agnes Ugstad. The house was in very bad shape, but Martin was still ‘madder than a hornet’ when he was told he would have to vacate the house and the land he had rented all those years so the newlyweds would have a place to live. He “went on a toot,” according to my parents, and would tell anyone who would listen that he didn’t think it was fair that he had to get out. It was his home, and there were lots of memories there.
One of the memories that Martin probably would just as soon have forgotten was that one of his sons, Olaf, was born in a car. When his wife Agnes went into labor, she announced to Martin that she needed to get to the hospital in Fergus Falls. Earlier, Martin had made arrangements for their young, unmarried neighbor, Harold Skistad, to drive them to the hospital. Martin’s car was an old, unreliable vehicle without a top on it, so Harold had promised to drive them in his car when the time came.
It should have been an uneventful trip; but at the last minute, Martin decided he looked a little scruffy. He didn’t want to go to Fergus Falls to the hospital until he had shaved first. So while Harold and Agnes waited, Martin shaved. To make a long story short, a clean-shaven Martin had to deliver his son Olaf in the back seat of Harold’s car on the way to Fergus Falls.
Poor young Harold. In those days, it wasn’t even polite to say the word “pregnant” out loud. After witnessing Agnes’s childbirth and delivering the baby and parents to the hospital, an anguished Harold drove home to the farm. He was so embarrassed about what had happened that he went straight upstairs to his room, shut the door, and wouldn’t come out. And Martin had to pay to have the backseat of Harold’s car reupholstered. It was a costly shave.
So when my parents got married in 1941, Martin and Agnes were forced to make other living arrangements. They borrowed some money and bought a farm west of Carlisle. The owner was ill and needed to sell, so Martin got the farm cheap. The first summer on his new farm, Martin had a huge bumper crop and was able to pay off the farm in one year. It was the first time in his life that Martin had owned his own land instead of renting it. He later sheepishly admitted that my parents’ marriage might have been the best thing that ever happened to him.
Everyone was relieved because Martin had been so furious when he lost his rented house and land to the newlyweds. Ironically, that house that Martin was so mad about losing was in such disrepair that my parents immediately started building a new house (total cost: $4,000) a few hundred feet away. They only lived in Martin and Agnes’s rented house from June to October. In October, they carried their belongings “one dresser drawer at a time” up to their new house. And that’s how that happened 67 years ago.