Outside Looking In
When I put out the word that I was searching for the names of the three boys that had skipped school 75 years and decided to trek west with a Bible, a flashlight and a jar of pickles, I never dreamed one of the boys would see the story call the Mascot.
I thought there was a slim chance that a senior citizen in town might remember the incident, but after making numerous phone calls and sending many emails to locals and former residents, only one person had a slight recollection of the story.
"I do remember something like that, but I don't remember who the boys were," said David White, before continuing with a laugh that "it sounds like something Walt Gislason might do."
White, who currently lives in Omaha, was correct in his assumption. Two of the three boys graduated from Minneota High School with White in 1954.
"Let me know if you find out who they were," White said.
When I made a follow-up call to White and told him one of the boys was indeed Walt Gislason, he laughed again before saying, "I thought so."
I have nicknamed the three boys, who were 9 and 10 years old, "The Pickle Boys" (see separate story on front page) because the story in the March 29, 1946 Mascot told that the boys only carried a Bible, a flashlight and a jar of pickles with them in their journey."
On a stroke of luck, Jon Gunderson saw the story online and called to let us know that he, Walt Gislason and "Buzz" Lovell were the three boys who decided to skip school one day and take off on foot in a westerly directions. Buzz's real name was Robert Lovell Jr.
What makes this a little humorous is that Robert Lovell Sr. happened to be the superintendent at the Minneota School District.
The Lovells left town shortly after the boys' journey as Robert Sr. took a job as superintendent with another school district.
The boys were planning to head west along Highway 68 to see how far they could get. They planned to sleep in haystacks and work for food (once the pickles ran out), Gunderson noted.
The boys had hoped to make it as far as Canby before nightfall, but only made it as far as Porter before someone called and informed the school about the three boys were playing hooky. Mr. Lovell drove to Porter to pick the boys up.
Wanting to put a face to my story, I asked Gunderson if one of his daughters could take his picture for me, and could they possibly use a jar of pickles and/or a Bible as a prop. I received the photo the next day with George holding those two items, as well as a flashlight.
Both men went on to become successful businessmen.
Gunderson and his brother, George, owned and operated Gunderson Construction Company for many years and constructed some of the buildings in town like the Manor, the apartment building and the bank. Gunderson's wife Darlene, passed away in September in Ottertail.
I then called Gislason, who I have known for many years in Willmar. He moved to Willmar in 1971 and owned a highly-successful car wash/gas station/convenience store along U.S. Highway 71 for many years simply called "Walt's". Gislason sold the business and he and his wife, Raeanna, moved to Wayzata six years ago. The business is still in operation and is still called "Walt's" as a tribute to Gislason.
Raeanna also was kind enough to take a photo of Walt holding a jar of pickles and a Bible and sent it to me to use with the story on the front page.
I have been unable to locate "Buzz" Lovell. If anyone has any information about him, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This bit of information was offered by Gunderson: "When I was born in Minneota, the doctor who delivered me was Dr. Sanderson," he said. "I just got new hearing aids here in Ottertail and my doctor her is Dr. Sanderson's nephew."