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Larson remains young at heart

By Staff | Jan 11, 2010

Hartwick Larson

Frank Sinatra had a hit single in 1963 with the song, ‘Young at Heart.’ It could be the theme song for Bricelyn native Hartwick Larson, as he approaches his 100th birthday.

Born on Feb. 19, 1910 to Arndt and Julia Larson, Hartwick is one of 10 children born to the couple who lived two miles west of Bricelyn.

“I was the oldest boy after five girls,” says Larson who eventually would have two brothers and seven sisters as his siblings.

Being the oldest grandson of Edward Larson, Hartwick retells the tale told to him how, when he was two, he would run across the road, or trail as it was in those days, to jump in bed with his grandparents.

“We didn’t worry in those days about traffic,” he says, “since most of the people still traveled by horse and buggy in the area.” However, he adds his grandfather was the first in Seely Township to buy an automobile. The vehicle, purchased in 1908, was a Model T.

Hartwick Larson and family

“When I was about four, I loved to ride with him in his Model T,” says Larson. Fortunately, this was after the older Larson became more comfortable driving the automobile.

“He had just one speed he would drive,” recalls Hartwick. “It was about 15-20 mph. He even kept the same speed when he needed to go around a corner. In those days, there were no ditches, so the corners were wide open.”

“I remember one Sunday he forgot how to stop the car,” chuckles Hartwick. “He was yelling, ‘ho!’ as if the car was a horse. Since he couldn’t stop, he kept going around the yard and wound-up with the back end of the Model T sticking out of the chicken coop.”

Hartwick says his grandfather was also known to be very particular about his car. He would park in the Bergsather garage while he shopped so the sun wouldn’t fade the paint. He also would whittle a matchstick to a point, lift up the seat cushion, then plug the gas tank with the matchstick so the fumes wouldn’t evaporate.

“We had so much homemade fun back in those days,” recalls Larson. “We had a lot of fun sliding down the hay in the barn. I also remember how my sisters liked to play house and I’d be the farmer. We also played out in the grove a lot.”

Hartwick Larson and the Model T he built.

One memory Hartwick has of his mother is her baking bread about every other day for her family. He also recalls the time when he and his sister were home alone when a gypsy wagon drove into the yard. They were so scared, he says, they jumped into the manger and sat under the feed boxes until the gypsies left.

When he was five years of age, he began his education by attending the Rosedahl School which was only about a half mile from his home. Because there was another country school named the Larson School (his family name) just two-and-one-half miles away, he attended it for two years. He says he hardly ever recalls when he and his siblings were given a ride to school. They were expected to walk the distance to and from it.

“My teacher was Nellie Brandsoy,” he recalls. “That school is now in the yard of Dr. Jack Peterson in Bricelyn.”

While attending school, Hartwick says the boys liked to wrestle a lot. He also remembers the time when another boy had hidden his overshoes. As a result, he had to walk home in his good shoes on the slushy gravel road.

“My dad was so angry, he hooked up the buggy and got my overshoes back from the boy,” says Larson.

Hartwick and Anna Larson loved dancing.

While attending school, he recalls two of his older sisters were dating at the time of World War I. When their boyfriends returned from the service they were married. He also remembers how his 18-year-old sister, Alma, underwent surgery on the family’s dining room table where she died from a burst appendix.

By the time he was 13, Hartwick quit school to help his father with the farming.

He says people were having financial troubles pretty much all through the 1920s. His grandfather was no exception, since he lost his farm.

But there were also highlights for young Larson in the 1920s.

In 1922, he says his father, Arndt, bought his first tractor. It was a three-wheeled tractor called ‘the Grey.’ While only 13 or 14 years of age, Hartwick recalls using it and having a lot of trouble with the clutch. He says it wouldn’t release, so he had to climb over the top and release the clutch with a bar. This was a very dangerous thing for any farmer to do. It was also about this time he tipped over ‘the Grey.’

During the 1920s, Hartwick says the Larson farm consisted of 200 acres. Corn, oats and sweet corn were the principal crops grown. The family also raised livestock including shorthorn cattle, chickens, geese and guinea hens.

“When the Bricelyn Canning Factory first opened in 1922 or 1923, we raised sweet corn which we would pick by hand,” recalls Larson. “Then we would haul the corn to the factory by a team and wagon. I remember waiting until midnight one time to unload.”

A typical teenager liking speed and adventure, Hartwick says he had his share of runaways.

To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.