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Happy1995 Holiday season

This year’s greeting is a little different.  It was written mainly for the Jensen/Jenson side of the family, but perhaps some of the rest of you might find it interesting.  In any case, Erika and I have had another terrific year with lots of travel, work, and excitement.  Erika has become the master carpenter and room decorator (master in my eyes anyway).  She would love to show off her master’s work if any of you are in the vicinity of South Texas.  Bob continues to tour  (every week in Fall 1995 Semester)  with his multimedia dog and pony show for professors.  We enjoy your holiday cards and letters, especially the ones that keep up to date on highlights in your lives and families.  God bless all of you.  Bob and Erika Jensen, 9010 Village Drive, San Antonio, TX  78217-3406.  Phone:  210-653-5055;  Fax:  210-736-8134;  email:



Sunrise_Sunset ---

March 23, 2011 message from Bob Jensen
Hi Pat and Linda (in a thread about knitting accountants),

The link below shows my Grandma Jensen, at Iowa's Kossuth County Fair many years ago, demonstrating how to spin wool into yarn on her spinning wheel that I remember quite well in our Seneca farm house ---

With the yarn, she could knit sweaters and mittens faster than anybody I ever knew. My hands never went cold growing up in Iowa. Grandma Jensen generally knitted in a flurry with three needles at a time.

Regina (Ginny) Jensen was born into a Knutson family in Norway before the family emigrated to Iowa in the 1800s in search of the rich black dirt of the Iowa prairie. She was raised on her family's farm north of Swea City. When she became a young woman and a school teacher she married Julius Jensen and moved onto his farm in Seneca township. My father, Vernon, was the youngest of five sons that she raised on the Seneca farm. Julius died of pneumonia when my dad was only two years old. Thereafter my grandmother raised her family by herself on the Seneca farm.

She cooked three meals each day on a big Clarion Iron Stove, cleaned clothes on a wash board (there was no running water on the farm), milked cows, helped harness the draft horses and mules, and helped deliver calves, colts, lambs, and piglets. Baked chicken dinners were always fresh soon after she pulled their heads off with one one experienced flick of the wrist.

I don't know how she found the time to spin her yarn and knit warm clothes for family and friends amidst all her other duties raising five sons without so much as a hired hand on that farm. Of course her sons pitched in better than hired hands and gave thanks in bended knees each and every bountiful day.

The women I knew on those Iowa farms (that generally did not have running water or electricity) were tougher than most of the men I ever met in my entire life. When tragedy struck, such as losing a child or spouse or a crop, they did not have time to fall apart. They wept a bit while doing their endless daily chores --- chores like feeding a family and milking the cows and feeding livestock went on day after day even in the Great Depression when there was no cash market for the grain and livestock. Times were tough, but so were the knitters who never quit their chores in good times and bad times or in darkness or light.

In Norway, Regina's father and uncles made their livings on the cold and dangerous waters of the North Sea. See their "House Under a Rock" in Norway ---

These pioneer families would've been very cold in freezing winds of the North Sea or the howling winds coming down upon Iowa from North Dakota if these hearty women did not knit day and night to keep the family dressed in warm woolen mittens and sweaters.

Bob Jensen



Touring Canada in a Model T
The Photographs Were Added in April 2004 Courtesy of  Walter S Warpeha Jr. [ ]

Vernon’s Recollections of an Adventure in 1925

                When a person reflects upon his or her lifetime of over 80 years, it is interesting to note what events surface as being among the most memorable.  My father, Vernon E. Jensen, is not a world traveler by modern day standards, but he has visited a large portion of North America over the course of the past fifty years.  Often these were trips to visit his wandering son who left Iowa in 1958 and has lived in Colorado, California, Michigan, Maine, Florida, and Texas.  Vernon and his wife Irene also took several extended vacation trips through the northwestern and southeastern parts of the United States and parts of Canada. 

                What is remarkable about Vernon is his nearly photographic memory of daily details during every trip outside the State of Iowa.  Whereas his son Bob can’t remember what he’d eaten for lunch earlier today (or if he’d even eaten lunch), Vernon Jensen can remember what he had for breakfast in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho in 1949 and for lunch Sudbury, Ontario in 1968.  He remembers every fuel stop, every cabin, every motel, every cafe, and every person that he struck up a conversation with on a trip.  Those of you that know Vern Jensen also know that he loves to strike up conversations anywhere at any time.

                Among all the memories of living, it is interesting what memories Vernon asked me to write about while he is still able to recall the details.  He requested that I write about a trip that he took after threshing season in 1925.  Vernon says he aged a year on that trip since he was 12 years old when he left and turned 13 on August 24 while still in Canada.  The fact that this trip stands out so prominently among his memories reinforces my belief that the most memorable times in anyone’s life are likely to be during teenage transition from the eyes of a child to the eyes of an adult.  It should also be stressed that this was his first adventure of any consequence away from the home farm in northern Iowa. 

                There are marked changes in daily living in 1995 versus 1925.  On the home farm 70 years ago, living did not include running water to the house, electricity to any part of the farm, heat other than the what radiated in the kitchen from an iron cookstove fueled with corn cobs, sleeping in until the sun commenced to rise, tennis shoes, packaged foods, designer jeans, and plans to travel any further than Ringsted, Fenton, Seneca, Swea City, or Armstrong for supplies.  A “big” trip might be an infrequent adventure to the County Seat in Algona nearly thirty miles from the farm. 

                It is not surprising that an adventure from Iowa to Alberta was far more significant to Vernon in 1925 than it would be to most any teenager in 1995.  But then again the planning and effort for such a trip was also much more significant.  For example, in preparation for such a long trip the engine of the automobile had to be disassembled.  Only the foolhardy would venture out on such a long trip without scraping the carbon off the head of the engine.

                The trip had to be planned around crop planting and harvesting.  They departed after threshing oats and before corm picking season.  Farm families could not leave home at crucial times of the year.  At any time of the year, there were also daily chores of milking cows, feeding the farm animals, picking eggs, and cleaning barns that could not be neglected for a single day.  On this particular trip, brothers Ralph and Linus were left behind to do the chores while brothers Vernon and Millen were chosen to accompany the three women on the trip.

                Millen Jensen was the designated driver of the Model T Ford.  Vernon Jensen was the youthful navigator at Millen’s side.  In the back seat for the entire trip sat mother Regina (Jennie Jensen), Olava (Wollen) Thompson, and Anna (Wollen) Wilberg.  Anna (1867-1951) was the eldest at age 57 in 1925);  Jennie (1871-1950) followed at age 53, and Olava (1883-1931) was quite a stretch younger at age 41.  Millen Jensen was 26 years old and not yet married to Blanche Appelt.  Vernon was the caboose between ages 12 and 13.  The male passengers were sons of Jennie Jensen, who lived as a widow since the death of her husband Julius in 1915.  Relative to the Jennie Jensen home place, Anna (Thompson) Osborn lived up the dirt road with her husband John Osborn.  Anna (Wollen) Wilberg lived two miles south in the same direction.  Olava (Wollen) Thompson lived over a mile south and west on the handsome Evergreen show place of a farm with her much older husband and cousin Cornelius Martin (CM) Thompson (1866-1938).  Incidentally, Vernon recalls that the handsome and large two-story house built by CM Thompson on the Evergreen Farm was a prefabricated home pictured in a Sears Roebuck Catalog.

                The main purpose of the 1925 trip to Canada was to visit relatives having roots in Norway.  Various members of the Wollen family (or Wollon since Norwegians were never fussy about the spelling of names) in Norway and later in Canada were related to the Jensen and Thompson family in rather complicated ways.  Gurie (Guri) Knudsen was the wife of Knud (Knute) Knudsen (1837-1878).  Knud’s sister (Gjertrud) married to Ole A. Wollen in Haugesund, Norway. 


                Regina (Jennie) Jensen was the youngest of among Anna (Knudsen) Osborn, CM (Knudsen) Thompson, and Regina (Knudsen) Jensen born as Knudsens in Norway.  To complicate matters, Knud Knudsen died from sunstroke almost immediately upon emigrating from Norway to Iowa.  All the Knudsens, thereafter, changed their names to Thompson.  Reasons for the name changing will probably never be known, but Knudsen just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily in English as it does in guttural Norwegian.  Also, Knud’s brother John Knudsen, who married to Carrie Anderson and farmed in Swea Township when brother Knud arrived and died, had already changed his American name to John Thompson.  In all this name change confusion, Bob Jensen wishes that they had chosen Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Windsor anything else that sounded more rich and/or regal.

                Ole Wollen and his wife (Gjertrud) had a number of children including Anna (Wollen) Wilberg, Olava (Wollen) Thompson, Martha (Wollen) Sorenson, Lars Wollen, Chris Wollen, and Caroline (Wollen) Steinberger.  The Wollens departed Norway on a boat in 1878.  Anna (Wollen) Wilberg met Hans Wilberg in Iowa and bore seven Wilberg children named Ellen, Otto, Hilma, Minda, Henry, Mildred, and Alice.  Most of the Wollens other than Anna emigrated to Canada after a brief stay in Iowa.  They moved to Alberta to take advantage of offers to work for the Canadian railroad in exchange for farm land.  Olava Wollen was born shortly after her parents moved to Canada.  On June 20, 1906 she married her cousin CM Thompson in Alberta and returned with him to his Evergreen Farm near Fenton, Iowa.  Old CM purportedly worked her pretty hard in the fields as well as in the home. 

                Lars Wollen married his cousin Nettie (the daughter of Tobaias and Anna Andersen).  Nettie was also the niece of Gurie (Knudsen) Thompson, which made her Jennie Jensen’s cousin.  Martha Wollen married a Canadian immigrant named Otto Sorenson and bore three Sorenson children named Otto, Carl, and Myrtle.  Lars and Nettie (Anderson) Wollen had four Wollen children named Alfred, George, Melvin, and Nellie.  In 1925, sisters Anna (Wollen) Wilberg and Olava (Wollen) Thompson no doubt wanted to visit their brothers and sister Martha (Wollen) Sorenson.  Jennie Jensen no doubt wanted to visit with her cousins in Alberta as well as Clara (Jenson) Mellom in Saskatchewan.

                There were various mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces who at one time or another bore the name Anderson, Wollen, and/or Sorenson and who, in the Summer of 1925, lived near Viking, Alberta.  Presumably, the main purpose of the long and uncomfortable 1925 trek, spent mostly traveling in a Model T Ford across parts of  Iowa, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, was to visit relatives not seen for many years.  Of course the opportunity to be relieved of cooking, cleaning, gardening, milking, and other endless farm chores probably entered into the decision to go for it.

                After threshing was ended in mid-August, the trip commenced before daylight.  Luggage was strapped to the running board on the left side of the black Model T.  The party of three women, a man, and a boy carried enough food for the first day.  The days were clear and warm during the entire trip.  Roads in United States were mostly clay or gravel and turned to grass and dirt in Canada.  The trip ended in Moorehead, Minnesota their first day where they slept in a park.  The women always slept sitting up in the car.  Vernon and Millen slept on the ground.  The next day they bought fresh sandwich ingredients and made it to where Reverend Berg had a parish in Bow Bells, North Dakota.  Reverend Berg was a former pastor at Blakjer Lutheran Church built on a piece ground given  to build a church on the edge of the home farm of Jennie and Julius Jensen.



                The weary travelers spent one day and two nights with Reverend Berg and his wife.  After conversations about the good Lord, the Old Country (Norway), weather, farming, and old friends, the travelers departed Bow Bells and made the Saskatchewan border crossing at Northgate.  On a Canadian grain farm near Northgate, they visited cousin Clara (Jenson) Mellom and her husband Ralph Mellom.  Clara was daughter of Hans and Christina Jenson who resided on a farm in Seneca Township.  Hans Jenson was the brother of Julius Jensen (remember that Norwegians were not fussy about how they spelled their names;  endings “son” and “sen” often differed between brothers). 



                After a couple of days rest on the Mellom farm, the travelers headed across the Saskatchewan prairie.  That evening they stopped in a wheat field.  Once again the women slept sitting up in the car.  Millen and Vernon slept on wheat bundles.  The next day, they ferried across the Saskatchewan River and proceeded on grass roads into Alberta.  In Alberta they passed through such towns as Yellow Knife and others with Indian names.  Whenever the Model T approached these small towns, residents would emerge to greet visitors and ask all sorts of questions about their own families and friends living in the United States.  These people were always warm and very friendly.  In spite of the road conditions and vintage Model T, each day took the travelers between 300 and 400 miles closer to Viking.  For several nights in succession they stopped to sleep in wheat fields.

                The final destination was the Lars and Nettie Wollen farm several miles outside of Viking, Alberta.  This was a comfortable farm that even had gas lights and gas heat.  A natural gas pipeline passed near the farm and farmers in that area were tapped into the gas line.  Jennie Jensen commented that it was wasteful not to turn the lights off in the daytime.  Lars Wollen pointed out that leaving the gas on was cheaper than the price of a match to light the lights.  He was charged a flat ratefor gas since there were no gas meters.

                There were three farms near Viking owned by relatives, two of which were very close to the Wollen farm and the other farm was only a few miles away.  One of these farms belonged to Chris Wollen, the brother of Olava (Wollen) Thompson and Anna (Wollen) Wilberg.  Vernon cannot recall the name of Chris Wollen’s spouse, but he does recall that she could only speak Norwegian.  The other nearby farm belonged to sister Martha (Wollen) Sorenson and her husband Lars Sorenson.

                A sister Caroline (Wollen) Steinberger in the meantime had traveled with her husband Albin and children from Oregon to join in the family reunion.  Hence, in that August of 1925, this was a planned gathering of the remaining Wollen clan.

                Vernon and the rest of the visitors spent a week in the vicinity.  Vernon stayed at Sorenson farm where he became closer with Otto and Carl Sorenson who were about his own age.  On one occasion, Albin Steinberger and Millen Jensen drove the children in two cars to Wainright National Park.  This Canada park contained 36 townships of original prairie habitat for such animals as buffalo, elk, deer, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, wild ducks, Canadian geese, and an occasional moose.

                Because school was about begin for Vernon (who a age 13 was to be a Freshman in a class of nine students at Seneca High School), the travelers in the Model T drove straight back to Iowa without stopping once again to visit Reverend Berg or Clara Mellom.  This trip had God’s good blessing.  The weather was perfect.  There was only one flat tire (at the Wainright park) and no mechanical break downs.  The Model T was a rugged and reliable automobile.  Nobody got sick or cranky.  There was a lot of conversing in broken English and Norwegian tongues. 

                Keep in mind, what is simply a comfortable trip in the 1990s was an adventure in the 1920s and 1930s.  There were no paved roads, road lights, or even road signs to indicate directions and distances to cities.  One simply relied upon a sense of direction and the good fortunes of running into friendly immigrants who could point the way.  Most towns did have fuel pumps and general stores for provisions.  Few towns had a hotel.   Even if hotel or cabin accommodations were available, the outrageous price of a dollar per night for a room prevented these travelers from indulging in such luxuries.  There was no indoor plumbing, and sponge baths on the open prairie took the place of hot baths or showers.  Vernon to this day recalls sleeping in the wheat bundles and eating sandwiches alongside the grass roads in Canada.  He recalls having to lift up the front seat of the Model T in order to fill the gas tank under the front seat.  Gasoline was fed by gravity into the engine.  The Model T had no clutch pedal.  There was a reverse pedal, a forward pedal, and a brake pedal.  In cold weather, the back wheels had to be jacked up in order to crank the engine.  There was no accelerator pedal.  A lever on the right of the steering wheel controlled the gas feed;  a lever on the left side controlled the spark and had to be turned off during the cranking operation to prevent injury to an arm.  Three bands in place of gear shifting had to be tightened part way up a hill in order to  make it to the crest of a hill.  To tighten these bands, the floor boards had to be removed.

                For Vernon, Millen, and Olava, this 1925 trip was the last visit to Viking.  Before they passed on, Jennie Jensen and Anna Wilberg did return in the 1930s for a visit with relatives in Viking.  Ellen (Wilberg) Peitersen and Mano Peitersen drove Jennie and Anna to Viking in a Buick Touring Car.  A highlight on the return was a tour through the Glacier National Park in Montana.

                It is sad that nearly all the folks mentioned above are long since dead and buried.  Memories of them live on only in the minds of the very few remaining descendants of my father’s generation.  Life was less comfortable in those days.  It took more planning and effort to do even simple tasks such as making a cup of coffee or preparing a meal.  As a result, prayer over the breaking of bread took on more meaning and deeper conviction that the bread was a gift from God. 

                Imagine having to stop on each steep hill in order to tighten the drive shaft bands.  Automatic transmissions, paved roads, jet airliners, and the “y’s” (Hardy’s,  Denny’s and Wendy’s) make our lives automated and convenient.  Now we travel twice or even ten times as far in a day.  In our Embassy Suite comfort we do not swat mosquitoes nor sleep in wheat shocks --- but neither do we hear the whine of locusts, the lonesome night song of a whippoorwill, the chirping of frogs in a distant pond, or the glory of song birds ushering in each new sunrise.  Instead our digital clocks tell us when to arise and watch CNN reports of the latest car bombing somewhere on this overpopulated planet.  I now live mostly in cyberspace and travel from campus to campus showing professors how to author hypermedia materials for networks.  One day soon I will be able to reproduce my father’s visit to Viking in 1995 virtual reality.  But it won’t be 1925 reality.


Acknowledgment:  I am grateful to Louise Engstrom of Algona, Iowa for making some of the following photographs available for me to photocopy.  Louise is the daughter of Gladys (Thompson) Charlson.  C.M. and Olava Thompson were her grandparents.


The photographs used in this story were not take on the trip.  They were, however, taken in the same era.

On April 2, 2004 I received the following email message from Walter S Warpeha Jr. []


Go ahead and use them. The "Big Lake" photo is from a vintage postcard sometime before 1922 when that road was paved. This is further east of where Vernon passed but I think the roads would be similar.


The second photo I took in 2002. This road is a natural road- a former beach of an ancient lake. It is designated as a Minnesota Pioneer road probably used by Indians for centuries. It is the first 60-80 miles of the Red River Trail and was used by cars getting to Winnepeg as early as 1916. I don't know where Vernon's group crossed into North Dakota but this is what those roads looked like.


A new photo next to the Mississippi is another postcard same vintage as the first.


The last is what is left of a very early road side gas station in Cushing, MN. At the time of Vernon's trip when traffic was still rare he probably bought gas at Hardware stores on the town's Main Street, no pumps, just poured out of a drum.



December 21, 2006 update from gvlchs []


I just received a forwarded article from a 1995 Christmas greeting which tells of the travels of Vernon Jensen to Canada in 1925.

My name is Alvin Sorenson, and I just happen to be the grandson of Martha (Wollen) Sorenson (son of Otto Sorenson).  I read the article with great interest.

I live in Viking Alberta Canada, the home of the Wollens and  Sorensons.  Of those listed in the article, only one is still living.  Melvin Wollen moved  to Edmonton in the early 1950’s, and continues to live there.  The Wollen farm was sold to a Nordstrom family, but the original house still remains (as does the original Sorenson house).  The Wollens and Sorensons are buried in the Golden Valley cemetery just north of the town of Viking.


If you’re interested, stories of the Wollen and Sorenson families can found in a history book published in the mid nineties (Viking in Progress).  I would be glad to send them it if you would like.


Have a great day, and good to hear from our relatives in the USA.

Merry Christmas, and all the best in 2007


Alvin Sorenson

Viking, AB Canada



Update October 10, 2007
Let Me Tell You a Snow Drift Tale About My Father (Vernon E. Jensen)

After leaving the family farm following World War II, my father commenced driving gasoline transports in his cousin Martin's  business that owned a chain of D-X Stations and Bulk Plants in small towns in northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota (but mostly in Iowa). Eventually he bought into this "jobbering" corporation and became the territory manager of the entire operation.

Once he got caught in a whiteout on Highway 169 between Humboldt and Algona. Although he was only about 16 miles from home, the wind-whipped drifts of snow made it impossible for the car to move in any direction. He was then faced with a dilemma of staying in the car (where he might freeze in the night) or walk for help. He commenced walking and soon discovered that the winds made this storm a complete "whiteout" known well to people living in the parts of the nation that have high winds and deep snow. ---
He could not even find his tracks leading back to his car.

It is somewhat common for people to die in whiteouts. For example, a woman facing a similar situation between Whittimore and Algona was found dead in a corn field two days after she abandoned her car.

My father soon realized he'd made a terrible mistake.  He discovered that he was in a field and could no longer even find the road. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a dog appeared. The dog commenced to pull on my father's trousers but not in the context of anger or play. The dog was trying to lead my dad in a particular direction. Having no better option my father followed the dog. The dog moved ahead a few feet at a time, always staying visible to my father in the whiteout.

At last the shadowy outline of a barn roof appeared. The dog led my father to a farm. My father was somewhat acquainted with the folks that lived on this farm. Dad phoned my mother and reported where he was forced to spend the night. In fact he had to stay two nights with his good hosts.

The farm dog, by the way, was an Airedale ---

Bob Jensen