Jon Gunderson and Walt Gislason

‘Pickle Boys’ uncovered

Trio played hooky, journeyed west 75 years ago with Bible, flashlight and jar of pickles

The identity of the Pickle Boys, as the Mascot is referring to the three boys who skipped school in Minneota in 1946 and decided to head west to "see the world", has been discovered.
In the Mascot's "Outside Looking In" column two weeks ago were details of a story printed in the March 29, 1946 paper with the headline "Three Boys Set Out to See the World Armed with Bible, Flashlight and Pickles".The 1946 article, which contained a few inaccuracies, told of three Minneota elementary-aged boys skipping school and deciding to venture west. The boys were listed as between 10-12 years old, but they were actually 9 and 10 years old. The story was originally told to the Mascot in 1946 by one of the boys' father, noted that the boys brought only a Bible,
a flashlight, a jar of pickles and 50 cents with them.They were planning to walk or hitch-hike to Canby by evening, and then set out for North Dakota the following day.
The names of the boys were not revealed in the original article.
One of those boys, Jon Gunderson, now living in Ottertail in northern Minnesota saw the article online and contacted the Mascot.
"I was one of those boys," laughed Jon Gunderson, 84. "Walt Gislason and (Robert Jr.) 'Buzz' Lovell were the other two boys. We weren't really running away from home; we were just exploring."
"Those were the glory days," said Gislason, who now lives in Wayzata. “We just decided to walk one day and see how far we got."
After attending school that morning, the three boys decided to take advantage of a unseasonably mild March day and skip school in the afternoon.
Lovell's father, Robert Lovell Sr., was the superintendent of Minneota Public Schools at that time. The family moved away from Minneota in 1948.
Attempts to reach "Buzz" Lovell were unsuccessful.
Before heading out of Minneota, the boys decided to take a plunge in the old swimming hole where Riverside Park is now located.
"I remember it was really warm out that day, so we decided to go down to the old swimming hole and cool off," Gunderson said.
"We would go swimming there all the time," Gislason echoed.
What Gunderson and Gislason failed to mention was that with all the other kids in school, "The Pickle Boys" shed all their clothes and went skinny dipping. That way, they could begin their westward journey down Highway 68 in dry clothes.
"We never wore swimming suits when we went swimming there," Gunderson admitted.
With thumbs pointing west, the boys were given a ride to Taunton by one man, and then a ride to Porter by a second accommodating motorist.
"I remember one of the guys that gave us a ride asked us a ton of questions," Gunderson said. "I think he might have turned us in."
The original story in the 1946 paper told that after reaching Porter, the boys were met by a former Minneota resident that recognized them, Mrs. C.M. Hanson. It was also possible that she had called Supt. Lovell at school to inform him.
Lovell then drove to Porter to pick up the boys, who were enjoying a hot meal at Mrs. Hanson's home.
"I don't remember some of that," said Gunderson. "It's been a long time ago. Our plan was to sleep in haystacks and work for food. I don't know who brought the Bible or why, but I know Buzz brought the jar of pickles along for us to eat in case we got hungry."
But as the day wore on, Gunderson admits that he wasn't so eager to continue the westerly trek.
"I remember thinking that when it starts to get dark out, I'm going to wish I was home," he said with a laugh.
The boys did not recall if they received any punishment for skipping school, only saying "probably".
"We were just little guys with big ideas," Gunderson concluded.

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