The selection of Florence and Henry Wehseler to be honored by the West End community at the Tofte Fourth of July celebration was right on. For many years Florence and Henry ran an outstanding business and, as well, provided an informal community center at the store for any purpose needed by the community at the time.
The Wehselers knew their customers well. If a customer needed community support, they saw to it that the support was forthcoming. They were also glad to provide little services almost without end. If you were trying to contact a person who you knew to be a customer at the store, the Wehselers were a surefire message center. There are not many businesses left with that amount of friendliness.
One of the most interesting relationships that the Wehselers developed was with the late Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila. The Wellstones vacationed at a friend's house in Tofte. Paul would walk to the store early in the morning. He would help Henry to carry the newspapers into the store as well as anything else that needed bringing in for the day's business.
Naturally, Henry and the senator would discuss the news, affairs, and politics of the day. Paul recognized Henry's down-to-earth grasp of these things and came to value Henry's opinions. On occasion, when Paul was not visiting in Tofte, and Henry had a matter to bring to the senator, Henry was free to call the Washington office of Senator Wellstone and the senator would take the call personally and entertain the call very seriously.
One of the more humorous incidents involving Wellstone and the store included the famous sausage that Dewey, the Market butcher, makes. Dewey gave Paul a sample of the sausage to take back to the cabin with a warning that the sausage was very hot and spicy. The next time Wellstone was in the store he gave his appraisal of the sausage. He said that it was delicious but not hot. He went on to say that he was Jewish, and the Jews made really hot sausage, so he knew what hot was like. He concluded with the offhand comment that Swedes and Norwegians knew very little about hot and spicy. Now that almost got him into trouble!
The Tofte Park just got another wonderful embellishment. John Nelson of Tofte built a beautiful arch at the entrance to the park. Drive by the park and look at the arch. The community thanks John for his craftsmanship and major effort to better the community. The word is that this arch turned out so well that John is going to build another one for the other end of the park. That is wonderful news.
John Nelson informed the Tofte Town Board that a box of old town records had been found in the attic of the town hall. I think I know where they came from.
Before the great financial depression there were several organized towns in Cook County. As the depression got worse the towns went out of business. This included the town of Tofte.
Years later when the taconite plant and railroad to the shipping dock were built it was realized that if the town of Schroeder was reorganized, a lot of money would come to the town. The folks in Schroeder got the message and revived the town. Tofte and Lutsen followed suit soon after.
I became the West End county commissioner in 1978. Sometime around then David Eckel told me that he had found several boxes of town records in the basement of the courthouse. We looked at them together and I took the Tofte records home for Mary Alice to deal with. She was the clerk of the town of Tofte at the time.
These were indeed the town records from the beginning of the town. They were well kept and fascinating to read.
I remember one entry. At issue was a major project that would involve quite a bit of money. The record showed that a motion was made to have the discussion in Norwegian and in Swedish as well as English so everyone present would be sure to understand. The issue passed.
We took the records to the town hall for safekeeping, and now they have been discovered once again. They are well worth treating well. This is the record of the roots of the town.
This column will be broadcast and published on WTIP just at the end of the WTIP current membership drive. All the West End residents who contributed have my thanks. By the magic of satellite and the Internet, you may read and listen to this column no matter where you are on the earth. Take WTIP with you and feel a part of the West End always.
Airdate: July 16, 2010