Siblings gather for 90th birthday partyAt 90, Dick Lundberg has a lifetime of stories to tell. The Poplar native shares them every Wednesday at Mother’s Kitchen. These stories, however, have to pass the scrutiny of not one, not two, but three of his older siblings – Bob Lundberg, 91; Elsie Erbentraut, 93; and Marion Olson, 98. “We match stories,” Bob said. “And try to outdo each other.”
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
At 90, Dick Lundberg has a lifetime of stories to tell. The Poplar native shares them every Wednesday at Mother’s Kitchen. These stories, however, have to pass the scrutiny of not one, not two, but three of his older siblings – Bob Lundberg, 91; Elsie Erbentraut, 93; and Marion Olson, 98.
“We match stories,” Bob said. “And try to outdo each other.”
The Lundberg family numbered 12 – William and Hulda Lundberg and their 10 children. Saturday, the five surviving children gathered at Peace Lutheran Church to celebrate Dick’s birthday and reminisce.
A favorite story centers around their baby sister, 79-year-old Ruth Nicoloff.
One night, Bob said, a woman stayed overnight for no apparent reason. The next morning when he walked through the kitchen on his way to milk the cows, he got a surprise. There on the oven door was a baby in a shoebox.
“We never had any idea we were going to have a baby,” said Elsie.
“No idea, mother never mentioned a word about it,” Bob said with a laugh.
Marion said she did get a little advance warning from their mother.
“But she didn’t tell us very far ahead,” she said.
From that point on, they had a little tag-along.
“I had 11 parents,” Ruth said. “They all helped raise me. I must have been very hard to raise.”
Berry picking, fishing in the family pond and exploring the woods were favorite childhood memories for the siblings.
Ruth told about a time when “Richard Donald” fell in the pond off an inner tube. Dick set the record straight. He fell off the end of a boat while fishing on the pond.
The pond provided a spot to skate in the winter as well as tons of ice to sell throughout the area, the siblings said.
Elsie and Bob recalled turning fallen birch trees into costumes.
“We used to strip them down, take them and put them over ourselves and walk back to the house, solid birch,” Bob said.
Their first phone number was East 2212, the same signal the trains gave as they chugged past the property’s edge.
Growing up, birthdays were celebrated with cake for breakfast, but no presents. Marion preferred cakes with lemon filling. Elsie’s favorite was chocolate. Bob, well, he liked cake.
“I’m not picky,” he said.
Christmas was a time to celebrate, with candles on the tree, lutefisk for dinner and handmade stockings full of treats.
Their father owned a general store in Poplar.
“He would walk home with his cash and a gun along the railroad tracks every night,” Ruth said.
“I didn’t know he had a gun with him,” Marion said, laughing.
During the Depression, hobos walking along the tracks would stop for supper in exchange for chores. After their father’s death, the siblings found many IOUs from that time period in the attic that had never been cashed.
There were sheep and cows to tend, stumps to clear and wood to chop.
“There was never a lack of things to do, but there was always time for fun,” Dick wrote in 1997 when the family celebrated the 100-year-old house they grew up in.
When their father died in 1944, the children took over what was then a hardware store. Dick worked for the hardware store and Polar Gas for years after returning from military service during World War II in Europe.
“You were Mr. Fixit,” Ruth said. “Very self-sufficient.”
“On the farm we had to fix everything,” Dick said.
Every time a sibling turns 90, the family puts on a big get-together. While many of the family members live nearby, Ruth traveled all the way from California to wish her brother a happy 90th.
“Dick was very special to all of us,” Ruth said. “The whole community feels that way.”
Although today is his actual birthday, Saturday was a time to visit with friends and, especially, family. They shared their rooms, shared their work and shared their fun.
“We felt sorry for kids who had one or two (children),” Elsie said. “It was no fun going to their house.”
They also shared a great respect for the parents who raised them and the siblings who continue to shape their lives.
“Family’s everything,” Dick said.
“We’re very, very fortunate,” Marion said.
Their weekly tradition is catching on. The next generation has begun to retire and join in the Wednesday afternoon lunches in Poplar.
“It is a time that we can share our lives,” said Janis Lepasti. “I feel so blessed to have uncles and aunts over 90 in their right minds.”
Charlie Bergsten agreed.
“It’s really a neat family to be part of,” he said.
“We want to keep them around,” said his cousin, Terry Lundberg.