Plenty of snow storms have blown through Stillwater in Anne Larson’s lifetime.
When she was a child and the snow flew, she’d grab her toboggan and head for Olive Street, where she’d slide down the steep incline with her friends.
“We’d slide down the hill and watch the dray wagons on the way up and hitch a ride,” Larson said.
The horse-drawn dray wagons hauled coal, lumber and other materials up Myrtle Street, a block away. The kids would slide down Olive, walk to Myrtle and catch a ride back to the top of the hill. Then they’d do it again.
This winter’s first snow storm fell on Larson’s birthday Dec. 2, but she didn’t slide down Olive Street. At age 100, the Oak Park Heights resident celebrated more quietly.
Larson, who has lived in the Stillwater area her entire life, could hardly believe she was turning 100.
“I never even thought about being 100 years old, even at the first of this year,” she said. She only realized it when someone else brought it up.
“I’m gonna be 100 — terrible,” she said before the big day. But she admitted was glad to hit the milestone “now that I got this far.”
Born Anne Mohr in 1913, Larson said she lived on South Sixth Street until she was about 8 years old. Her father was from Keil, Germany, and had come to the U.S. around age 6. Larson has long wondered but doesn’t know what brought the family to the U.S.
When she was about 8, Larson’s family moved to a new house on 813 Olive Street.
“My uncle built it,” she said. “He built three houses alongside.”
Times were different then. After trudging in from sledding or skating, two of her favorite activities, Larson soaked in the heat from a coal furnace.
“It was good and warm,” she said.
The family purchased coal from Bluff City Lumber, located in the building that is now the Grand on 2nd Street.
Besides sledding and skating, Larson enjoyed going to silent films at the Auditorium theater, also on 2nd Street. One of the “silents” she remembers liking was called “Pearl White.”
Communication was also different. The family didn’t have a telephone “for a long while,” and when the phone was hooked up, it used a party line shared with neighbors.
Although her dad and uncle owned a truck for hauling equipment, she rarely got to ride in it. But Larson does remember riding the streetcar that ran to St. Paul.
“It was close to an hour ride into St. Paul,” she said.
Larson attended Stillwater Area high School when it was located across from the Washington County Historic Courthouse, where the Stillwater Veterans Memorial now stands. Part of the school burned down while she was attending.
Larson graduated in 1931.
“There was … 104, I think, in our class,” she said.
Shortly after graduating high school, Larson got a job at the State Captiol working for the motor vehicle department.
When World War II started, Larson and her family had to keep quiet about their German heritage.
“Those people had to keep their mouth shut,” she said. “They couldn’t maintain their German roots.”
In 1942 Larson’s brother John joined the Army, and her future husband, Grant Larson, went into the Navy as one of the Sea Bees. John was sent to Europe, and Grant was shipped to the south Pacific.
When Grant returned from the war, he married Anne on May 17, 1946. They moved to Bayport, and Grant worked at the Stillwater prison and Andersen Windows. He retired in 1970. The couple stayed together until Grant died in 1989. They had a son, Stephen, and a daughter, Elizabeth.
After Grant’s death, Anne lived in Croixdale senior living in Bayport for 23 years, according to her son, Stephen. Legally blind, she recently moved into Boutwells Landing, but her mind is still acute.
Asked the secret of her long life, she said, “just good genes, I guess.” Her mother died at 69 and her dad at 81 — she said those were old ages for the time.
Stephen Larson thinks it may also have to do with her outlook. He said she is “quick to laugh, (and she) enjoys life and her friends.”
“She has always been a positive influence, always looks on the upbeat, positive side,” he said. “She never dwells on the negative whatsoever.”
When life sent her a blizzard, she went sledding.
“I just went out and had a good time,” Anne said. “(The valley) was a good place.”
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]