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Norman Christensen

Norman Christensen's name appears in many stories in the Spicer History pages. He made quite an impression on his fellow business persons and, apparently, on the younger people in town, too.

One day Edwin Rykken walked in his kitchen door, laughing and shaking his head, home for "noon dinner." He had driven that day. (He usually did because there might be a fire call, and he would need his car.) It had been a stressful morning with lots of problems. He soon realized that Norman's morning had been equally stressful. They drove slowly so both would have a chance to share problems before reaching home. At one point Norman evidently realized how angry he really was, because Edwin said it was like a bolt of lightning struck-Norm an put his feet up and kicked out the window of the Rykkens' Chevrolet. Norman was instantly remorseful, and Edwin seemed to feel it was totally appropriate, given the circumstances, and they were good friends.

An auction sale was held next door to the Christensen home on the north side of Harriet Street. It was a raw windy day in spring, but Irene Rykken bundled up little Bobbie and sent her to the sale with her father. Norman was there when they arrived. When Edwin and Norman joked and teased, Bobbie had trouble understanding the whole exchange, but she decided it was probably all right since the men seemed to like each other. Norman would point at something and say that was what he was going to buy, and Edwin would reply, "Why, I was planning to buy that." Then the situation would be reversed.

However, the whole exchange was only talk until a child's sturdy oak rocker was placed on the wagon, and the auctioneer asked for an opening bid. Norman and Edwin were soon bidding against each other, and the bids went higher and higher. Edwin dropped out at $12, and Norman got the rocker. The two men and Bobbie started walking home. When Norman reached his front door, he handed the rocker to Edwin and said, "It's Bobbie's." Bobbie was just three years old, and Norman had won her heart as a friend forever.

When Bobbie was older, she and Norman shared a conspiracy they never talked about. Here is Bobbie's account: "My mother had a theory that if you got cold, you caught cold. In those days, before it was acceptable for girls to wear slacks or jeans to school, mothers provided their daughters with long stockings to wear to keep their legs warm on the walk up that long cold hill to the Spicer School. In our house, as in many others in Spicer, we wore ugly brown stockings on weekdays and white stockings on Sundays. As if the stockings weren't punishment enough, you had to figure out the contraption known as a garter belt to hold them up. This went over your shoulders, around your waist, and then the necessary garters hung down from the waistband. Sears gave no guarantee as to fit, but there were some adjustments that could be made. You could shorten it so that it cut into your shoulders-then your stockings were tight. Or you could loosen it enough to be comfortable and have your stockings bag at the knees and sag at the ankles. In my mind, my mother was always the last spring holdout. Because I just knew that this was one argument I would never win, I looked for another solution to my embarrassing problem, and I found it at Norman's Skelly Station. When most of the other girls put their long brown stockings into summer storage, I tucked my knee socks in my book bag and headed for school in the long browns. When I got to the Skelly Station at the corner, I went in to the office, asked Norman for the key to the ladies' room, made the switch, hid my brown stockings and garter belt behind the towel holder, and headed up the hill in my knee socks, just like everyone else. At 4 o'clock, when school was out, the procedure was reversed, and I arrived home with brown stockings in place. This went on for several weeks every spring for two or three years. I know that Norman knew what I was up to by the twinkle in his eye, but he never said anything to me about it, nor did he tell my mother what I was up to."

Green Lake's first pontoon built with oil barrels from Spicer Oil by Norman Christensen.
(Left to right) Maggie Oman, Cressie Christensen, Jennie Wilson,
Florence and Jon Bratberg and Norman Christensen.

For some time Norman drove the school bus from Spicer into Willmar so that Spicer students could attend high school in Willmar. Norman had both the patience and the noise tolerance required for the job. He also had, evidently, an impulsive streak that he shared with Spicer students one beautiful spring morning. It was quite close to the end of the school year. It had been an early and unusually warm spring, and for days almost everyone had spring fever. For probably a week, each morning after leaving Spicer, someone would start coaxing, "Come on, Norman, let's skip school today. Do we have to go to school?" Soon everyone on the bus had joined in. On this particular morning, the chanting got especially persistent right after they had gone over the bridge and were in Willmar. It was just like every other morning except that on this day, Norman turned around and said, "O.K., let's not, let's not go to school today." And he started driving away from the school. They toured Willmar, lots of Willmar, and when they got out toward the airport, the kids thought they might be going to Olivia or Benson. By then the bus was pretty quiet. The seniors were thinking about the final they were missing first hour, and others about band rehearsals or papers that were due. Eventually Norman turned back. They were all late, of course. Norman entered the school and went right to the office with the students. Were any of them punished? Who remembers now?