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John Jacob Olstad II


Nicholas R. Gust


6th Grade 1994, Tri-County School, Karlstad,MN


Honorable Mention

Kittson County Historical Society GenealogyEssay Contest


John Jacob Olstad II was born March 22, 1928 in Strandquist,Minnesota. There were no hospitals near them so he was born at home. Hisfather was in Middle River buying cattle when John was born. He did notcome home until the weekend because they traveled by railroad. By the timehe got home, John and his mother had gotten scarlet fever. Their housewas quarantined and his father could only see his new son through the window.

John was named after his father, John Jacob Olstad. Hisfather was born in Taten, Norway. When his father was four years old, theycame to America and homesteaded at Hamony, Minnesota. His father movedto Thief River Falls when he was older to work in the sawmills.

John's mother, Albertina Josephina Fredricson Bengston,was born in Blue Earth, Minnesota. When she was three years old, her motherdied and she was adopted by Swan Bengston from Strandquist. John's GrandfatherBengston served in the Civil War. His Grandmother and Grandfather Bengstondied before he knew them.

John's father owned the bank in Strandquist, Minnesotauntil the Depression when all the banks closed. His father also startedthe Bertrim-Wright Lumber Company in Strandquist. Later, his father alsostarted buying and shipping cattle to St. Paul. John's brother, Loyal,managed the stockyard in Karlstad. John's father would ride the same railroadtrain to St. Paul as the cattle. It was on one of his trips to St. Paulthat he had a heart attack and died at the age of sixty-seven.

John was the youngest of twelve children. There were nineboys and three girls. His father always said that he had a baseball team. There are twenty-two years in between the oldest and the youngest child. His brothers and sisters are Herbert, Loyal, Florence, Marie, Richard,Gilbert, Wilbert, Palma, Ernest, Palmer, Oliver, and John. Today, Johnhas one sister and four brothers still alive.

When John was two years old, his family moved to a farmnear Strandquist. When he started school, a wagon pulled by horses tookhim to school. In the winter, the wagon had a wooden cover over it. Tokeep the children warm, stone and bricks were heated in fire and put inthe wagon. John's driver was George Rasmussen who still lives in Karlstadand is ninety-three years old. George would get up at 3:00 a.m. to heatthe bricks and stones. Later, wood stoves were put on the wagons to keepthe children warm. When they put the rutters on, they put them out farenough on the sides so the wagon would not tip.

When John was in the sixth grade, his family moved to Karlstad. In 1946, he graduated from high school with a class of sixteen.

John has done many different jobs in his life. One ofthe hardest working jobs he had was picking potatoes when he was fourteenyears old. Students got out of school for "potato vacation." He worked for two weeks and made nineteen dollars. He was paid one anda half cents per bushel. With the money he made, he bought a heavy jacketwith a fur collar, two shirts, two pants, underclothing, and still had moneyleft over.

During the summer and fall when John was in high school,he worked on a farm near Kennedy for Ed Sundberg. John was the only onehauling grain. He'd fill the trucks, take one and empty it, and then emptythe other truck. Then he would fill the trucks again.

After graduation, John worked for John Sollund Plumbing. In the four and a half years he worked for him, city water came to Karlstad. Since they did not have machinery to dig the water lines, they had to doit by hand. John spent the majority of his life working for Mobil Oil ownedby Alfred and Robert Carlson of Karlstad. He drove the bulk truck for twentyyears. He hauled fuel to Kennedy, Warren, Greenbush, and several othertowns. When he first started hauling, they only had fifty-five gallon tanks. Soon, they started welding two tanks together, and now most tanks are atleast 200 gallons. John remembers the price of fuel being six and a halfcents a gallon when he started. Since then, it has been as high as $1.20a gallon.

In 1973, Alfred Carlson died and Robert sold out of theMobil Oil Company. John then went to work for Larry Stein Construction. There was a big housing boom. Larry sold dynamic homes. He worked forLarry for eight a half years and then he retired. Since then, he and hisbrother, Palmer, did odd carpenter jobs. The two of them built most ofthe house John lives in now.

Sports was always important to John. He started playingbasketball in school in fourth grade. It was called Midget Basketball. They had leagues and played other towns. When he was a junior, Karlstadbeat Roseau for the first time in the history of the school. In 1945, thewhole team went to Minneapolis to watch the state tournament at the WilliamsArena. They stayed at the YMCA. The superintendent was their coach becauseduring the war they could not get men to coach.

After high school, John played independent basketball forseveral years. He also played amateur baseball with the Karlstad Pirates. He later managed the Pirates. He umped baseball and refereed basketballwith his brother for eighteen years. For the last ten years, he has coachedhigh school baseball. He also coached the Legion baseball. When he firstrefereed, he did as many as 65 - 68 games and was paid $2.50 for B and $10.00for A.

One of John's most exciting times in his life was whenhe was inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. It was a great honor because only four or five people are inducted eachyear. Another honor for John was in 1991 when they named the Karlstad baseballfield after him.

John was married to Maxine Carlson on December 26, 1947. Maxine taught school for one year in Lake Bronson and then started teachingin Karlstad. She taught for forty years and still subs today. They neverhad a car for the first five and a half year they were married. John'slove for sports even showed on the day they were married. They were marriedat 3:00 in the afternoon and John was playing basketball at 7:00 that nightin the Holiday Amateur Basketball Tournament.

John and Maxine have three children. Susan, who lives inBrowerville, Minnesota; John III, who lives in Hoople, North Dakota; andCarla, who lives in Karlstad. They have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

John served two terms on the School Board, two terms onthe City Council, and one term on the Health Facilities Board. He is athirty member of the Lion's Club, and a member of the Sport's Boosters,and a member of Bethel Lutheran Church. John enjoys working with childrenand does wood working as a hobby.

John remembers life being very hard when he was young. They had none of the conveniences we have today. The only light they hadwas from kerosene lamps. There were no refrigerators so they hung milkand butter in the well. Their stove was a Monarch wooden range. They hadno indoor bathrooms so they had to use the outhouse. They used old catalogsfor toilet paper. They were excited when their father got a box of applesfor Christmas because each apple was separately wrapped in tissue. Theyunwrapped each apple and used the tissue in the outhouse. They did nothave much food. They did not have butter so they used lard on their bread. They had a horse and cutter or else they walked. The only meat they everhad was rabbit meat. When World War II came, there was rationing of flour,sugar, gas, and shoes. They even had less to eat because his mother couldnot make much bread because flour was rationed. His dad and brothers wouldgo cut wood and sell it to the school and creamery for $1.00 a cord.

John has lived through many hard times, but is very happytoday with the life he has with his family and friends.

The information for this report came from an interviewwith John Olstad.

life he has with his family and friends.

The information for this report came from an interviewwith John Olstad.