She was the ‘Egg Lady’
Olive Samdal is well-known in the Frost and Bricelyn area as the ‘Egg Lady’ who gathered the farmers produce while spreading the local news.
Born in Illinois 96 years ago, Samdal was only three weeks old when her mother died. By the time she was three and her brother five and a half years old, her father moved his two motherless children to Frost where they were raised by his wife’s parents.
“My grandparents already had ten children,” says Samdal. “Five were still at home, the youngest was only eight, when my brother and I moved in with them. Our dad didn’t stick around. He went to Montana and I never heard from him for years.”
When she wasn’t helping with farm chores at her grandparents, she was attending Frost’s Mundale School where she completed her eighth grade education.
“I’ve always been working,” says Samdal who says she has liked just about every job she has ever had.“When I was living with my grandparents, I plowed corn with horses and even lifted 40 acres of beets once because my brother had contracted polio. He was in an iron lung for seven days, but improved and got as strong as ever,” says Samdal. Those were also the years when Frost and Marna were well-known for their beet production.
“I always loved to work in the field,” says Samdal. “My brother generally drove my grandparents’ tractor and I would help by sitting on the binder.”
Another fond memory she has is of readying the field for corn planting. She says her grandparents had a six section drag pulled by their five horses.
“I especially liked working with the horses,” she recalls with a smile. “One day, while I was working with them pulling the drag, a neighbor asked my brother who the new hired man was who was going so fast in the field. My brother told him it was me…his sister.”
Samdal also recalls the Depression years by saying, “You never could starve a farmer.”
During the 1930s, she says all the farmers basically ever had to buy from town were spices, sugar and coffee. Otherwise, they raised their own livestock, poultry and vegetables.
“In the wintertime, we would get five 50 pound bags of flour at a time when we went to town. We generally never went their unless it was to buy groceries or go to church on Sundays,” she recalls.
As the years passed, Samdal continued to assist with the farm chores and also helped care for her grandfather who had suffered a stroke.
Even though she knew of young Hans Samdal, since he lived only about four miles from her grandparents, she finally got to know her future husband better while he was in her threshing run.
The couple began seeing each other and were married in 1937. They worked for two area farmers for about six years before they moved to Bricelyn. It was during this time she showed her expertise in milking cows.
“Milking cows was something I liked to do also,” says Samdal. “My husband and I would milk at 5 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. While working on Bob Smith’s farm near Bricelyn, the milk tester showed-up one day. He generally came around once a month and on one of these occasions he told Bob he should throw his milkers away and get another woman like me to do the milking since I could milk faster than the machines.”
Her first non-farm job was working at Bricelyn’s Wolf-Habein Store in their grocery department. Later, she worked for 40 cents an hour at the Home Cafe also located in Bricelyn.
She and her husband then returned to Frost where she cooked and cared for her husband’s parents and his two brothers for about seven years.
After this, she and her husband owned and operated the Frost Produce for 17 years.
‘The Egg Lady,’ as she is fondly remembered by area farmers, would often go on the egg route with her husband in their International truck.
“Our route took us to farms in the areas of Kiester, Bricelyn, Frost, Blue Earth, Elmore, Buffalo Center, Rake and Thompson,” says Samdal.
Four days per week the couple would be on the road. Samdal says they would generally go in the forenoon to the various farm places, unload the eggs, then go back and complete their route. She says all farm places were contacted two times weekly.
“We would often go into people’s basements and haul out the egg cartons without ever seeing anyone,” she says. At other times, their service gave her the opportunity to visit with the farm families sharing and gathering the news from the neighborhood.
The Frost Produce, at it’s peak, had four lady employees who would candle the eggs. After this process was completed, the Samdal’s eggs were picked-up by a truck which hauled them to Mullen’s in Wells or to Walters.
As the number of farmers raising chickens declined, the Samdal’s down-sized to an Econoline van. Finally, the last two years they were in business, Olive drove the route by herself.
“We paid what we could in those days,” says Samdal. “A 30 dozen egg case was worth 50 cents. We worked on a four cent profit margin. That’s why I needed another job!”
For eight years she worked in the housekeeping department at the Blue Earth Hospital while still maintaining her egg route every Tuesday.
Then, looking for a different part-time job, she drove to the Wells egg plant (Mullen’s) seeking employment. While listening to the radio on her way home, she heard St. Luke’s was hiring.
“I stopped at the nursing home and the Administrator, Harlan Gaard, hired me right away,” she says.
She worked at St. Luke’s for nine years as a nursing assistant, then at age 72 she began doing home health care for 11 clients.
“I worked many evenings, often staying until 5 a.m. I did this until I was old,” she laughs.
Samdal says she was always so busy working she never developed any hobbies.
At age 96 she says her advice to the younger generation is to keep busy. She practices what she preaches and has no intention of slowing down.
Recently, she had her eyes examined by Dr. Neist in Fairmont. “He said I should make another appointment in a year which surprised some of those in the waiting room when they learned I was already 96.”
Until recently, Olive Samdal could still be seen going around the hallways of St. Luke’s with a pail in which she collected pop cans for the Boys Scouts. She also removed the tabs from the cans saving them for her grandchildren who turned them in at their school for various charities.
Church and volunteer work also are mainstays in Samdal’s life as is visiting her son, Roger and his wife Wanda in Windom. Her favorite pastime, however, is going around to visit people.
After all these years, ‘the Egg Lady’ still is busy gathering articles while spreading the news.