Sunday, August 11, 2013

Who Is Marvin?

In my last post, I mentioned that my father's friend Marvin Stromgren had come to live with us for a short time. Until most recently, I had no idea if Marvin was related to my father or just a friend. I went on an exploratory expedition on to see if I could figure out how Marvin and Dad knew each other.

Oh did that journey illicit memories of the things that my dad had told me of his past! I did a search on Ancestry for Marvin Stromgren born about the same time as my father in Minnesota. There was a hit in the Minnesota Birth Index. Marvin Berg Stromgren and Kathleen Margaret Barthel came up as the parents of 3 children.

That aha moment hit. These were Marvin and Kathy. I don't actually remember much about Marvin and Kathy except that they were friends of my parents.

When I saw the date of birth of the youngest of the 3 children, I was confused. Their youngest child was born in 1951 before Marvin lived with us. However, their next child was born in 1955. The 4-year gap fit with Marvin having been in the military. It was during the Korean Conflict that ended in July 1953, about the time that Marvin lived with us.

The next aha moment I had was remembering that Marvin and Kathy were one of the families who had a basement house. I now wonder if Marvin stayed at our house while his basement was being built and that Kathy and her child lived with her family at that same time.

Marvin left behind at our house that wool blanket. That became my blanket and I called it my tickle blanket because it made my nose itch. It was very prickly. Thankfully, the tickle blanket was left behind when we moved to California.

So how are Marvin and my father connected?

I learned from the Minnesota Historical Society birth index that Marvin was born in Isanti County in 1925. That was a bummer because my dad was born three years earlier in Hennepin County. From the 1930 US Census images, I found Marvin in Grow Township living with his widowed mother, Olive and his siblings, two of which were born before 1920. The second household enumerated after Olive's was my dad's Aunt Ellen's family but my dad and his family were living in Aitkin County, Minnesota in 1930.

Olive died in 1979. I don't recall if I ever met her but I do remember hearing her name. Since Marvin's father died when he was very young, I don't believe that I knew his father's name. Checking the 1920 Census, I found that Olive, her husband Abel G. and their two children were living in Isanti, Minnesota on Broadway Street. He ran a general store. The Minnesota State Gazetteer of 1922 lists Abel Stromgren and Fred L. Russell proprietors of a general store, Stromgren & Russell, Isanti.

On September 12, 1918, Abel Gustaf Stromgren registered for the World War I draft. He was a merchant whose residence was in Constance (Grow Township), Minnesota. Abel named his wife, Olive Mary, as his nearest relative. So some time after September 12, 1918 but before January 6, 1920, the family moved from Constance to Isanti.

The family resided in Isanti about 8 years or so. Their youngest child was born in Isanti August 22, 1926. However, by April 2, 1930, Olive was back in Grow Township. According to the census, she was the postmistress. From a ledger of post office appointments in Anoka County, I learned that Abel was appointed postmaster in Constance on January 8, 1927. He died on November 24th of that same year. She then became the acting postmistress.

I found her in Grow Township in the 1940 Census. Olive was the postmistress. The household enumerated before hers was that of Ruth and Mathilda Book. Ruth would become my grandmother's sister-in-law. The appointment ledger noted her several appointments as postmistress of the Constance post office. The final entry was of the closure of the post office effective February 28, 1955, mail to Anoka.

Now I know how Marvin and my dad knew each other. It was because of the post office.

I don't know exactly when my dad's parents moved from McGregor, Minnesota to Constance but they were living in the same house on April 1, 1935 (1940 Census). I remember railroad tracks that were near the house where my grandmother was raised. My father told me that his grandfather had convinced the US post office to have a mail stop at his farm.

Prior to this, mail was sent to the post office in Anoka. As a member of the community had the need to make the trip to Anoka then he/she would check for mail at the post office. The mail train would pass by my great grandfather's farm. Dad told me that the train didn't stop but it did pick up and drop off mail as it passed.

In 1935, my father was 13, old enough to put the bag with the outgoing mail on the pick up hook and retrieve the bag left by the mail train from the drop off hook. My father graduated from Anoka High School in 1940. Between 1935 and 1940 my dad handled the mail bags at his uncle's farm. With Marvin's mother as the postmistress and my dad helping with the mail bag, Dad and Marvin would have known each other.


  1. You are speaking of my father, Marvin, I am his son Greg born in 1955. I ran across this blog while doing some genealogy research. I read your blog to my dad today, and he spoke of Gerry Torkelson who lived on the other side of the tracks from him, (west of the post office which was located at the intersection of Crosstown Blvd. and Constance Blvd). He spoke of his wife June, and could remember 3 of their 4? children, Grace, Renee, and Keith. My mom, (Kathy, passed in 2008), and dad did live in a basement house when they were first married in 1950. But my dad, who was in WWII, Air Force was discharged in 1948, or 1949, so I’m not sure about your 1953 date. My parents did take a few trips out to California, and they may have visited your folks, as they traveled across the country visiting numerous friends and relatives after retiring.
    Fred L. Russell, was my great grandfathers brother in law and business partner, I have an axle grease pail, (used to grease the wagon axles), from the general store they owned together. Dad enjoyed hearing this blog, and reminiscing of his childhood.

  2. Greg, I am so happy that you found my post. My parents didn't buy their house until 1949 when I was only 2. It's hard for me to believe that I would know that your dad was living in a basement house when I was only three. So now I am confused and this leads to legends. Please ask your father if he ever lived with my dad in the 1950s?

    1. Lanaii,
      Correction for why my Dad, Marvin would still be in Uniform, He was discharged from the Air Force on July, 20, 1948, and then enlisted in the Air Force Reserve on July 21, 1948. He was discharged from the Air Force Reserve on July 10, 1952. My Dad passed last week, and I recently found more details of his Air Force Reserve military career, which was unknown to me, he was headquartered at more than one air force base during this time.