Fergus Falls had close to 25 neighborhood grocery stores during the 1950s and 1960s.
West End Grocery at the corner of West Cavour Avenue and Buse Street, also known as Gerhardson’s Grocery, was a three-generation enterprise.
Otto Gerhardson started West End Grocery with his wife, Hilma, after their marriage in 1907. They lived down the hill, one house east of Buse Street, facing Lincoln Avenue.
A son, Helmer Otto Gerhardson and his wife, Ruth, then took over the operations of West End Grocery. They lived right next door to the grocery store.
“My Grandma Ruth operated West End Grocery with her 10 children for over a decade while Grandpa Helmer worked at the State Hospital in Brainerd during the week,” said Bob Paulson whose mother, Beverly, was the oldest of the 10 children.
Helmer Otto died at age 54 in 1962 and Ruth continued to operate the grocery store after his death, with her children, until 1965.
“Our family passed along how my great-grandfather, Otto, kept his fiddle at the corner store,” said Bob, who with his wife, Cyd, live in Rapid City, South Dakota. “He only played it when his wife, Hilma, wasn’t in the store, since fiddling led to dancing.”
Bob’s mother, Bev, married Lloyd Paulson of Parkers Prairie in 1951 at Augustana Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls.
These days Bob and Cyd spend two months each spring and fall on his great-grandparents’ farm west of Parkers Prairie. The family has owned this land since 1892.
Lloyd Paulson was employed by Scheels in Fargo-Moorhead from 1952 to 1980.
“My Mom and Dad were both founding members of the Dollars for Scholars chapters in Parkers Prairie, Fergus Falls and Moorhead,” Bob said.
“One of Dad’s business associates took Dad’s idea and set up Dollars for Scholars chapters in every North Dakota town that had three components: a high school, a newspaper and a bank.”
More about West End Grocery
Bob Paulson, great-grandson of West End Grocery founders Otto and Hilma Gerhardson, says his great-grandparents and grandparents sold produce, dairy products, cut meat, lunch meat and sausages to order.
“Kids would return pop bottles daily, often exchanging them for candies in bins behind a tall glass case,” he said.
Hunting and fishing stories were shared at a bench in the back of the store, always a source of the latest news.
A buzzer on the front door of the store was wired into the house next door.
“When customers would come by during mealtimes, one of the kids would hustle over to the store to serve the customer,” Bob said. “There was a well-trodden path from the side door of the house to the store.”
Special orders were either held for customers on any day of the week, or delivered to their homes.
“Put it on our tab” was often requested by customers who were short until the next payday.
This was a practice at not only West End Grocery, but at many of the other 24 neighborhood grocery stores in Fergus Falls.
Some things that really bug people
My former early 1970s co-worker at the Fargo Forum, Bob Lind, still writes columns and shared with readers what really bugs some people.
Bob asked readers to provide things people do every day that really annoy other people. Here goes: Men and boys who keep their caps on when eating. People who leave shopping carts in vehicle parking spots. People who litter by throwing stuff out of car windows or while walking around. People who fail to use their turn signals. Drivers planning left turns or have plans to go across the street but who occupy some or all of the right lane. People who use God’s name in vain. Smokers who litter streets, sidewalks and lawns with cigarettes. Stores which let their parking lots go to pot (holes).
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.