Front-porch seat to change

Ninety-nine-year-old Dorothy Arndt sits at the kitchen table in Stillwater Boulevard home in Lake Elmo recently. Arndt, who turns 100 later this month, has lived in the house with her 84-year-old brother, Harold, since the 1950s and has seen many changes in the city over the years. (Gazette staff photo by Amanda White)

Ninety-nine-year-old Dorothy Arndt sits at the kitchen table in Stillwater Boulevard home in Lake Elmo recently. Arndt, who turns 100 later this month, has lived in the house with her 84-year-old brother, Harold, since the 1950s and has seen many changes in the city over the years. (Gazette staff photo by Amanda White)

Dorothy Arndt has seen Lake Elmo change in 100 years

LAKE ELMO — Dorothy Arndt watched from her front porch as Lake Elmo grow for more than half a century.

Arndt, 99, and her siblings bought their Stillwater Boulevard house in the early 1950s, but lived in Lake Elmo since 1929. Arndt is about to turn 100 years old and she has a lot of memories about the area she calls home.

Arndt was born on June 22, 1913, the fourth child in her family. There would be 11 children total: Edna, Margaret, Evelyn, Dorothy, Wilmer, Mildred, Lorraine, Lucille, Norman, Richard and Harold.

The Arndt family lived on a farm in what is now Grant, but they moved to a Lake Elmo house in 1929 because they lost the farm to the Great Depression. The youngest, Harold, was born by then, on Aug. 28, 1928. He will be 85 this August and lives with Dorothy.

With money tight during the Great Depression, there were no extras for Arndt and her siblings.

“Well, we couldn’t go to shows or anything, it took money. Well we got by. I mean, we wore second-hand clothes, sometimes. But we got by,” Arndt said.

Once her family moved to Lake Elmo, Arndt’s father, Adolph, worked at a local creamery and her mother, Julia, stayed at home with the children. Norman was the only Arndt child to attend high school. The other children went through eighth grade. Dorothy Arndt attended two one-room schools, called Districts 13 and 60, and she finished her schooling at what is now Lake Elmo Elementary School.

Arndt’s mother passed away at the age of 52. Harold was only 8 years old. Julia Arndt fell ill and went to the hospital for an operation, but died five days later.

Dorothy Arndt believes cancer claimed her mother, but no one is sure.
After her mother’s death, the older siblings took their younger siblings and moved out of their father’s house. Their father married a mail-order bride from Missouri and the children didn’t believe he would have the time or space for them.

Evelyn and Dorothy Arndt eventually bought the house Dorothy and Harold currently live in after moving a few times around Lake Elmo. Edna, the eldest child, died around age 38 from multiple sclerosis. Most of the Arndt siblings, including Harold, Evelyn, Wilmer, Lucille and Richard, worked for Minnesota Mining, which became known as 3M, in order to provide for the family. They worked in a downtown St. Paul factory making sandpaper. Dorothy Arndt remembers her siblings wearing special coverings on their fingers and hands for protection from the sandpaper.

There was a bus stop across Stillwater Boulevard from the Arndt house, and the siblings rode the bus to St. Paul for work. Dorothy Arndt didn’t work at Minnesota Mining, but once Twin Point Tavern started serving food to stay in business, she helped in the kitchen with Edna before Edna died. Arndt worked at Twin Point Tavern for 60 years under three sets of owners until she was 79.

“I felt good and everything, but one day, I was shaking a rug out they had in the liquor store, and just like that my legs gave away,” she said. “I still walked home that day.”

Dorothy Arndt walked everywhere around Lake Elmo because she never learned to drive. Harold Arndt had his driver’s license, so he drove his sister and their siblings destinations outside Lake Elmo, but Dorothy Arndt was able to walk to the stores on Lake Elmo Avenue including the old Hagberg’s Meat Market on Lake Elmo Avenue, as well as another grocery store, hardware store and Lake Elmo Bank. Eventually these businesses moved when Lake Elmo continued growing.

Dorothy and Harold remembered when the field across Stillwater Boulevard from their house became Brookman’s, a car dealership that would eventually become Fury Chrysler Dodge Ram. Stillwater Boulevard was a dirt road when the Arndts first moved to Lake Elmo.

When World War II arrived, the boys of the Arndt family went fighting. Harold Arndt also fought in Korea. All made it home safely, but Dorothy Arndt remembered how empty and quiet Lake Elmo became during the war. There was dancing on Saturday nights at Twin Point Tavern, but it wasn’t the same when the young men were off at war.

“The girls would get together and go out, but it wasn’t like when the fellows were there,” Dorothy Arndt said.

Harold Arndt remembered one of the bands that played Saturday nights called the Gassers because the musicians worked for Lake Elmo Oil.

The Arndt children never regained contact with their father, who died in his 70s from a stroke. Edna, Margaret, Dorothy, Mildred and Harold never married, and Dorothy, Harold and Richard are the only surviving siblings.

Other than suffering a small stroke two years ago, Dorothy Arndt has no major health issues. She isn’t even on blood pressure medication. She uses a walker because her left leg goes numb occasionally, a side effect of the stroke. She used to enjoy embroidery, but arthritis in her hands prevents her from continuing. She still enjoys cooking and is searching for a good barbecue rib recipe.

Dorothy’s nieces and nephews are hosting an open house to celebrate her 100th birthday on Saturday, June 22, from 1 through 4 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church. The address is 11194 36th St. North. For more information visit christlutheranlakeelmo.org.

Contact Amanda White at amanda.white@ecm-inc.com

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