I grew up above the old DeForest Times office at 108 Market Street. I was thinking back about some of my old neighbors back then and I remembered old Mrs. Thormodseth who lived in an upstairs apartment two doors to the south of me. Her Norwegian name was pronounced Tor-ma-set. I did not know her first name as everyone referred to her as Mrs. Thormodseth. I found out her first name when I read her obituary —it was Mina.
She lived alone and I knew her for years. She always looked the same — a sad-faced, little old lady. She was born in Norway and came to this area when she was 16. Her husband, Bertil Thormodseth, preceded her in death by about 40 years.
She had one daughter, a granddaughter and three great-grandchildren although I never saw anyone visit her. She kept to herself and seldom spoke. When she did speak it was hard to understand her broken English with a heavy Norwegian accent.
Every morning she could be seen walking around the main square with her shopping bag in hand to pick up her mail at the post office and a few groceries at the Farness & Johnson IGA Store. Sometimes she would stop at Nordahl’s Drug Store. Nearly every afternoon when the weather was nice, you would see her head down the tracks in her fishing clothes and straw hat to do some fishing at the creek. She would return with a catch of suckers which she would clean to have for supper that night.
My Uncle Just Johnson lived alone behind the Times office. He was retired and quite often he would go fishing in the creek just for the sport of fishing. When he got back to his apartment he would wrap the dirty, smelly suckers in old newspapers and stick them in his garbage can for disposal.
One day Mrs. Thormodseth saw him disposing of the fish and she told him not to throw his fish away, that she would gladly take and clean them. They would make a good supper. She said to bring the wrapped fish up to her apartment and if she wasn’t home just leave them by her door and she would clean them when she came home.
She ate fish from the creek nearly every day for many years and lived to age 92 when she passed away after a short illness. She was one tough Norwegian.
Ajax Johnson lived in the other apartment upstairs in the old house and he was hardly ever home. He was a long-distance truck driver, so he would be on the road for days at a time. He would return to home base for three or four days and then head back on the road again. He was always complaining of a sore back. I can imagine driving for miles in those bumpy old trucks would be cause for a sore back.
Now you’ve met three of my neighbors from the old neighborhood. I’ll probably return there for some more memories in future columns.
Graduation exercises for the Class of 2019 were held June 1 at DeForest Area High School. I enjoyed looking at all of their smiling faces in the Graduation Section of last week’s Times-Tribune. I remember when I ran the newspaper the two biggest editions of the paper were the graduation edition and the Christmas issue. Congratulations to this years graduates!