Posts Tagged: decorah

Clifford Julian Smorstad

Clifford Julian Smorstad, age 96 (May 24, 1918 – July 13, 2014) 

C_Smorstad_BW_MillClifford Smorstad was born in rural Decorah in 1918 and grew up near Frankville and then on the family farm in Glenwood township. After attending country schools, he was well known for decades for his portable sawmill and could be seen for many years at the Mabel / Hesper Steam Engine Days sawing timber (Clifford’s son, Dean, has kept the tradition going!). Clifford still has a love for all things Norwegian (and a few polka tunes), as well as his family – especially his grand and great grand children!

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Be to work on time and do the best job you can. As soon as I was old enough, I started helping with chores around the farm. I remember plowing with horses C_Smorstadand sometimes the weather could get cold before we got all of our fieldwork done. Not only did I do chores when younger, I also helped my mother in the kitchen and learned to cook ­– and still love to cook!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

As a little boy I was always fascinated by airplanes – either flying them or being an airplane mechanic, but never took it beyond a dream…

What do/did you do?

I started a business sawing lumber for farmers with a portable sawmill. I felt that as long as the trees grew there’d be a good business in sawing. I usually operated within a 100­ mile radius of Decorah. I used a 75 horsepower tractor to pull the sawmill from farm to farm and to provide power for the sawmill. I really enjoyed sawing lumber and it was even better to see that the lumber was used to repair or build different buildings on the farm. I also had a land improvement business. This involved building ponds, terraces, and waterways, clearing of brush and trees. Also traveling farm to farm, I had the opportunity to enjoy many great meals and meet many great people. My true love is sawing lumber and since I can’t do it anymore I can now enjoy seeing my son, Dean, sawing lumber at Mabel Steam Engine Days and having family be a part of it.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

Someone to talk Norwegian with, my sawmill and tractor, polka music and a dance partner!

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.

Hard working Norwegian who loved to dance and have fun.

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Potatoes, Ludefisk, and Lefse!

Name one thing you could not live without.

Eyes – being able to look outside or be outside and being able to see my family, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Tell us about your favorite memory.

When I first started sawing, I bought a stationary sawmill that needed repair, fixed it, and sawed with it. Another great memory is my trip to Norway and Germany with my wife Hazel – seeing the pretty countryside and visiting homesteads.

Margaret Halvorson Stortz


Margaret Halvorson Stortz (passed away at 92 March 21, 2014)

Interviewed by grandson Benji Nichols

Margaret was born in the fall of 1921 and grew up farming in rural Decorah. Through a life that has spanned horses and buggies and speaking Norwegian, she still values family, comfort food, and a bottomless cup of coffee.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My Dad (Hans & Mabel Halvorson) gave me lots of good advice – he was a schoolteacher when he was younger and then farmed. I always liked: “Take what you can eat, and eat everything you take.” We grew up in a time when there wasn’t always much extra.

What do/did you do in life?

Margaret_NowI was a farm wife. We milked cows twice a day and raised four kids – Diane, Beverly, Lauren, and Lowell. I can remember getting up very early from a young age to milk – I was often the first one up in the house.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

My coffee pot (ready to brew!), my orange coffee mug, and some good homemade cookies!

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Meatballs, mashed potatoes, and Lefse. Maybe a good piece of pumpkin pie too!

Name one thing you could not live without.

My Relatives. I have a good family.

Tell us about… Your wedding day.

Virgil & I were married on May 5, 1946. I didn’t get married until I was 24 as I just really thought I should keep helping on my folks’ farm. We jumped right into our own farming as well.

Your first job.

I can remember doing chores on the farm since I was very young, so that would have been my first job. I graduated from the 8th grade and went right to work, like a lot of folks then. I worked at Barges Café in Decorah when I was young, and also did housework and helped take care of kids. I think I worked for all of the Ronans at one time or another!

Your favorite memory.

There are many. I have great memories from all the time I spent with my sister Ruth. She graduated from 8th grade and left home right away to work for others, so I missed her when I was young. We kept up all through life and enjoyed our visits. I also recall anytime my Dad’s relatives would visit – they only spoke Norwegian and expected we would do the same. When I first went to school I remember trying to speak English and accidentally slipping in Norwegian words and getting laughed. My Dad’s Uncle, Evan “Shorty” Boe also used to own an ice cream parlor in Decorah. When my Uncle Andrew would visit from Chicago he would take us out for ice cream – it was a big deal and the only times we had ice cream as kids.

Probituary: Armella Zweibohmer

Armella passed away October 2, 2017 , at the age of 91. Our thoughts and condolences go out to her family, friends, and loved ones.

Armella Zweibohmer, 87 and loving life! Interviewed by granddaughter Mary Jane Wenthold

Armella’s life in Northeast Iowa has been blessed by children and family! With 11 siblings and nine children of her own, she has 29 grandchildren and 35 great grandchildren in her loving bunch!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A mom, I always wanted a bunch of kids. Growing up I was the oldest of 12 children so there were babies around all of the time. It’s amazing all of my siblings are still living, I am 87 years old and my youngest siblings are 66 years old.

What do/did you do?

I love babies and always wanted to be a mom. I was 19 years old when I married the neighbor boy, Gustave Zweibohmer, in October of 1945. We had nine children together and their names are James, Mary Jane, Ron, Dale, Karen, LouAnn, Jean, Michelle and Joan. We raised our kids on a farm. I gardened, sewed, and the kids were in 4-H.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

My cell phone, water, and some kind of food.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.

I love people and have to be around people.

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Banana or apple

Name one thing you could not live without.

A picture of my husband Gus.

Multiple choice: tell us about…

Your first job: At the age of 16 I was hired by the Swenson family of Clermont to take care of their baby, cook and clean. When I wasn’t working for the Swenson’s I worked seasonally at Decorah Produce picking chickens.

Your favorite memory: In 1944 when my neighbor, Gus, was honorably discharged from World War II. We had kept in touch over the three years he had been away in the service. Gus came home and found me out in the field picking corn; it was there he proposed.