A Big Adventure to a Small Town

September 30, 2010

George Larson Family, circa 1936

George Larson Family, circa 1946

So here it is, 1946, and we have this very proper family from big city Chicago—George, his lovely wife Ruth, and their dearest daughters Carol and Judith, all dressed to the nines and posed for a formal portrait.

In 1946, the George Larson family was rooted deep in their big city life. Their extended families lived in surrounding communities. George, 47, was well-established in his career with C.A.Burnett Packing Company, the same place he and Ruth first met nearly 20 years earlier. Ruth, 37, had set up their home in the bungalow they owned on Ada Street. And Carol, 13, and Judith, 10, were in eighth and fifth grades, respectively, at Timothy Lutheran School.

But all was not well in the Windy City.

“Grandpa wasn’t feeling too well,” my grandmother Ruth tells me in our 1990 video interview. “He was having problems with his stomach and the doctor told him he shouldn’t be working in an office. He should be moving around more and get out of the city.”

“He was a bookkeeper,” explains Ruth. “Besides doing all the bookwork, he used to go around and pick up all the checks from these different companies that slaughtered with us. One of them was Oscar Meyer and Co.”

Then, one weekend a family visit to Michigan changed all that. It changed life not only for George, but for the whole family as well. According to Ruth, this change came “quite in a hurry.”

“We were up in Michigan visiting Grandma & Grandpa Larson on the farm and Esther and her husband Lloyd, who had a store in Gaines,” Ruth tells me in the video. She’s talking about her inlaws who farmed in Imlay City, MI, with George’s brother Clarence, and also George’s sister Esther, who lived in a small town about 50 miles away.

“They got the Flint Journal all the time and we looked in there and this store in Henderson was listed,” Ruth says. “We drove out there once and looked at it while we were there on vacation. I think that was over the Labor Day weekend. Grandpa decided he wanted that store. We didn’t have enough money to put down on it because we were just there on vacation. So Uncle Clarence let us have $500 to put down on the store.”

In the video, I ask how much they paid for the store. A nosy question, yes, but I’m thinking of posterity.

My grandmother doesn’t remember.

“But it was less than what we sold our house for because we sold our house for $11,500. I think the store was about $10,000,” she says.

“And of course, the apartment was upstairs. We had to have our furniture brought and we had the baby grand piano. That was easier to move because they just took the legs off of it, see.

“The furniture got there before we did. Six rooms of furniture and all our clothing and that. It cost us $117 to move from Chicago to Henderson, MI,” Ruth laughs.

“The people had called us to tell us the furniture was there,” Ruth continues without a pause. “We stayed at Aunt Esther’s and Lloyd’s in Gaines for a few days and the people in the store asked if they could put up the piano and play it—I guess their daughter could play piano. The rest of the furniture was all in the back room.”

I remember my grandmother’s furniture well. She had many very nice, quality pieces. Imagine the curiosity it aroused for those store owners! And think of the buzz going through the little town of Henderson as they wondered about the family coming from Chicago!

“Finally we took over the store,” remembers my grandmother. “I think we moved in October, around the 25th of October in 1946.”

George Larson Family

George Larson Family, circa 1950s, in their apartment above the store.

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5 Responses to “A Big Adventure to a Small Town”

  1. Terri Says:

    I think my strongest early childhood memories are about Grandpa’s store in Henderson. The store and the apartment was always such a special place. And to think, we never did gather the courage to go all the way up the attic stairs…

  2. Terri Says:

    Aunt Jeannie was sitting on the front steps of the store waiting for “the new girl” (Mom) when the Larson family finally pulled into town.

    • Buck Says:

      I remember when mom was really sick, her saying that Aunt Jeannie was waiting for her on the front steps of heaven too.

  3. Rhonda Says:

    That’s a great story, Di. Isn’t it funny how a seemingly spur-of-the-moment decision like your grandfather purchasing that store trickles down to effect the children and grandchildren? Think what different memories you all would have had if the Larson family had stayed in Chicago. Teri sure looks like your mom in that picture, by the way.
    How is the beaded bell project progressing?

  4. Becki Says:

    I recently moved to Henderson and am a huge history buff. This has been a wonderful look at the “good ole days” of Henderson’s past. Do you have any more pictures of the town? What stores did it have? I am trying to figure out the history of our home which is right across from the town hall.


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