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Olson had seven children, three careers in 91 years

Lorraine Olson describes her age as “90-plus” because she’s 91-years-old. Her children will host a birthday celebration for Olson on Saturday, April 26, from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Bluffs in Hager City. (Herald photo by Bill Kirk)

HAGER CITY—Lorraine Olson’s nine decades of living have featured homes and jobs not far from the Mississippi River where it creates the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Like the river, Olson’s life has been dominated by some changes, but also a lot of constants. She began in a slightly bigger city—Red Wing—then eventually moved to the more rural towns of Maiden Rock and Hager City, all influenced by the Mississippi. Her early work involved being out front at restaurants, while a second career had her behind the counter at a post office and a third, behind-the-scenes at a bank.

The subject of a birthday celebration in her honor next week reflected Wednesday on growing to an advanced age during some rough economic times.

“My dad was so happy just to get a job with the WPA (Works Progress Administration),” she remembered.

The Red Wing native is the daughter of Art and Clare Turnbell, originally with eight brothers and sisters, though only two are now left (a brother Duane Turnbell is in Virginia and a sister Audrey Brand is in Siren), she said. She attended three of the four elementary schools then in her hometown—Washington, Colvill and Jefferson (Hancock was the other one)—before starting at the former Central High School, though never finishing. As the oldest of the children, she was given responsibilities at home.

“I used to help ma peel potatoes,” she said.

Her grandmother operated a restaurant in the community when she was a youth, she said. Her father worked there for many years and her mother was employed at the restaurant, too. The young Olson was known to sometimes operate the cash register.

Next, she served as a waitress at the old Blue Bird Café in Red Wing, where her boss was a friend of her parents, she said. A blue plate lunch cost customers 25 cents and a slightly bigger meal went for 30 cents. Her wages were $10 a week, along with one meal a day.

“There were no tips,” she said.

For more pelase read the April 16 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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