I started out life as a baby, (don't we all?), in northern Minnesota. I was born in a small town called International Falls. It has the distinction of being known as the "icebox of the nation", since it often is the coldest spot in the lower 48 states. I have decided to try something different for Christmas gifts this year. I am the oldest of six children and other than Mike, probably remember more about Mom and Dad than any of them. So I want to write a story that I can send to them for Christmas. (I actually did this several years ago. One day I hope to complete this.) If anyone reads this, and you have any suggestions, please feel free to send me some e-mail. If you take the time to read this, I hope it's not too boring. Not everything you read here may not be gospel, but here is a little bit about what I remember of my childhood and family growing up.
A map of Northern Minnesota
|Our father was named Roger Ervin Pearson and was the son of Axel and Anna. They both migrated to Minnesota with their families from Sweden when they were very young. They grew up on farms near (is 17 miles near?) a small town called Roseau, also in northern Minnesota, about two hours west of International Falls.|
Later, when the boys grew up and moved away, my grandparents sold the farm, but kept a corner lot and ran a small country store and gas station, simply called Pearson's. There was another store down the road a mile. The other store got to run the post office, called Pencer, so in return, our grandparents got to sell the Sunday newspaper. It's funny how things work out, but Pencer was at one time known as the smallest post office in the US, and now I live close to what is currently the smallest post office in the US, called Ryland, AL. Everyone for miles around used to come and visit, especially after church on Sundays. All the men folk used to buy their sniffing and chewing tobacco at our store, so the corner got nicknamed, "Snooseville" by the local newspaper reporter.
Eventually, our grandparents retired and Mom and Dad took over the business. More about that later. Grandpa and Grandma Pearson lived behind us in the other house on our corner. In a way, it was bad for Mom. Her in-laws were just a little to close, only being about 50 yards away, and they usually took Dad's side when there was an argument or disagreement. I know they wanted to be fair, but it's difficult at times to see faults in your own children. Not that Dad was ever cruel or mean, but he was not perfect either. I always felt they cared, but they were hard people who had lived hard lives, and they had very little respect for people who complained about anything. They could be gruff and short tempered from time to time.
Grandma could make the world's best lefsa, flatbread and potato dumplings on her old wood-burning stove, though. Grandpa died when I was still pretty young, so I never really got to find out what kind of man he was. I remember him teaching me how to chop firewood using the old spinning steel wheel with the axe head welded to it. I also remember seeing him kick my dog, Queenie, once. I was very angry at him for a long time. I don't know the reason he did that, and in some way, I think I never forgave him. Grandma ended up living out the rest of her life alone, and I think she felt a little betrayed by the fact that he left her. They had several children, our aunts and uncles, of course. I hate to admit it, but I don't remember all of their names anymore.
I do remember Ina, Wanda and Joyce, but can't recall the name of Dad's older brother. He married Mary, an English woman, whom he met while stationed in England with the Army. He was a truck driver for a supermarket chain and they had several kids. I remember playing with their youngest ones, Diane and Paul, since they were at least closer to my age. They lived way down in St. Paul, so we did not get to visit very often, after all that was a six hour drive, or more. I recall one time, Paul went to downtown Minneapolis, late at night, by himself. I don't know what he was doing there, but I was told he ended up getting stabbed by some gang members or thugs. Some neighborhoods are better left alone, if you know what I mean.
Aunt Ina and Uncle Lornie (I think it was short for Lawrence) had three children and I used to play with Danny and Natalie growing up. Beverly was a lot older than I was, so I never really got to know her much at all. They lived in International Falls, so we saw them fairly often. I remember one time Danny and I were taking apart old shotgun shells to extract the gunpowder. He managed to burn his hand and most of his eyebrows off when he put a match to it. Funny how stupid we can be when we are young, isn't it?
Wanda married John Ross Jr., and had a number of children. The oldest was Rudean, then next was John Ross III, but everybody called him Jackie. He was only a few days younger than me. He probably would have been named Randy, if I had not been born first. I was named after one of Dad's cousins, who had accidentally shot himself trying to retrieve a gun from the top shelf of a closet. That happened a couple of weeks before I arrived on the scene and Wanda wanted to name her son or daughter after him too. Sometimes I wonder what I would have been called if I had waited just a little longer to be born? Jackie and I spent a lot of time together growing up, since they lived a lot closer to us. We would ride bikes, jump off roofs into piles of leaves, go swimming or tease his sisters. There were a lot of them in addition to Rudean. There was Robin and Rhonda and later Randi. I used to tease her and call her my namesake. She used to say the same about me. I was probably about nine or ten when she was born.
Wanda finally got divorced and moved away from her husband. Things must have really been bad for her, because she even left her children behind. Eventually she met a nice guy named Bob. In time, they got married and had another girl, Katie. They lived in Duluth, so we did not see them too much, except at holidays. I remember wrestling with Bob along with my brothers on the living room floor. My brother has a videotape that was created from old 8 mm home movies. I hope he makes a copy for me some day. Bob was a good guy and even helped my brother and I sell some old antique Mason jars we found in the basement of an old house. He got us $5.00 for each one. I think we had about 100 of the things. I hope he did not pay for the jars himself, but that was the kind of person he was. He promised that he would find somebody to buy them, and even if he did not, he would never break that promise to us. He worked at a scrap yard. I got to spend a couple of weeks with them one summer. It was my first real trip away from the family. I was amazed at the large bridges and huge ocean going ships in the harbor. I also got sick after eating my first lobster at a fancy place Uncle Bob took us out to. Never have been much of a lobster fan ever since that day. He died just a little while before my mother died. I lost touch with Wanda after that, but last I heard she lives out in Nevada, and some of her children have moved out there to be close to her.
|I never really knew Joyce too well, but she was married to Maynard. He worked at the paper mill in International Falls. I know they were good people too. They used to act as foster parents for orphan kids. I remember hearing about some of the sad stories those kids had been through. I think they eventually ended up adopting one or more of the foster kids. I lived with them for a very short time, after our family split apart, but by then all their children had moved away. My best memory of Joyce and Maynard is a Christmas gift I received from them one year. It was a subscription to National Geographic magazine. I was impressed by the fact that I was the member of a world-wide society, and got a certificate and everything! I think that magazine is part of the reason why I wanted to leave Minnesota and see some of the world. I don't know if I ever said it, but thank you very much. The last time I saw them was when I stopped and stayed overnight with them on my way to Korea. They lived in Seattle at the time and took myself and my ex-wife to see the Space Needle and eat at a nice Oriental restaurant.||
Fireworks at the Space Needle
My mother was born Sharon Elaine Elliot, in International Falls also. Her parents were Clarence and Vivian. I don't remember grandpa's middle name anymore, but grandma's full name was Vivian Alvina (or Elvina?) Alexandria Servis-Rudd-Elliot. She used to complain about how long her full name was. I got very close to her after Mom passed away. She told me stories about the old days, while sitting at the kitchen table, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Hay rides behind horse drawn wagons in the winter, working with her family on the farm growing up, and her ex-husband. He was the Rudd part of the name, and used to run a railroad, but kept her almost locked up in a train caboose with no company for weeks on end. He would let her out, so to say, when he wanted to show off his pretty young wife at a party of important big-wig clients. After a year or so, she could not take it anymore and left him. Later after marrying my grandfather, they moved to Seattle during World War II so my grandfather could work in the shipyards building ships for the war. She told me stories about the rationing system, shuttering the house against light in case of Japanese bombing raids, etc. Eventually they moved back to International Falls to finish raising their family, which consisted of three daughters, Marilyn, Sharon, and Patricia. They also had a son, but he died in infancy.
Grandpa never really talked too much. Guess that's the way some men are most of the time. He used to make a trip into town, about two miles, every day of the year. He did all the grocery shopping for grandma and usually ended up bringing home more than he was supposed to. He always made sure the spare refrigerator was well stocked with sodas for his grand children and liked to take us camping and fishing also. He was there the first time I caught a fish and held the net for me. He worked hard at a mundane job and provided a good life for his family. He loved to dress in drab olive green shirts and pants along with work boots. I can't remember seeing him wear anything else, except maybe pajamas or hunting clothes a few times. He loved his family and always had balls and bats and baseball gloves or a Frisbee around for us kids to play with. He kept a garden with peas, squash, flowers and fresh strawberries in the summer and tinkered around in his garage a lot. He was quick to smile, but slow to talk. Grandpa was the first person to tell me, "You learn more by listening than talking." He used to trade in his car every two or three years for a brand new one.
Marilyn had an unfortunate accident when she was very young and has a learning disability. She is not stupid by any means, but she sometimes has very wild mood swings and is very much a loner. She lived at home until grandma and grandpa died, then she moved in with her sister, Pat. She watches a lot of television and can tell you almost every actor or actress who ever starred in any movie title you can name. It is almost uncanny how much she can remember. Last I heard, she had a boyfriend that she was seeing off and on again. I think that is wonderful for her and hope she is happy.
Pat ended up becoming the mother to all of us after Mom died. She had a lot of hard times, but somehow managed to always be caring and loving, even when things were at their worst. She had two children of her own, Dawn and Leslie. Dawn was the result of her marriage to Bob, and Leslie was the daughter she had with Les. All of us ended up living with Pat and Les. They had to struggle to help us, but hated to see all of us kids separated. At first, Mike, Sherry, Robert and Lisa lived with them. I bounced around from home to home, and Scott was taken in by our cousin Darlene. Darlene and her husband seemed to have the perfect life, with money, a cabin on the beach, nice car, good clothes, and a fancy house. I think they wanted a beautiful son to complement the beautiful daughter they already had. Scott was not really happy though, so he moved back in with the rest of the family after a year or two. I also was not happy. I ended up living with various relatives around town. I lived with Pat and Les for a time, my cousin Allen, Uncle Maynard and Joyce, Grandma and Grandpa Elliot, and then finally on my own. I managed to worry a lot of people from time to time, but I survived those awkward teenage years, with only minor regrets. When I lived with Pat and Les, it was quite a household, two adults, three boys, and four girls. While I was there, we lived in a three bedroom trailer house. That was a cramped situation, but we were a family. There is no way we can ever repay her for all she did for us.
Part 2 - Randy's Early Memories
For information about Minnesota in general visit here or here.
Visit the home page of International Falls where I was born.
Also see the home page of Roseau, where I was raised.
Thunderbird Lodge is where my brother, Michael, works.
See Hayes Lake State Park, a few miles from where we lived.
Lake of the Woods where we often went fishing.
Find out more about Minnesota's natural resources.
The Virtual Sweden Site can tell you about where my grandparents came from.
Seattle, Washington is where I visited my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Maynard and saw the Space Needle.
Visit the International Peace Gardens. Many of my great-uncles and cousins helped build this beautiful place.
Dad worked at the Polaris plant for several years.
Both Mom and Dad worked at Marvin Windows at one time or another.