BY BRENT PETERSON
Growing up in Stillwater, I was able to meet many people. One of the most exciting times I remember in elementary school was when a man would come in and tell our class stories. Mr. Larson would be the story teller and he would captivate the entire class for more than an hour, without videos, without many props, but just with the way he could tell a story.
Gilbert “Gib” Larson was not born or raised in the St. Croix Valley. He was born in Canada in 1898 and he and his family moved to Duluth in 1903. From there he moved to Mountain Iron, Minn. which later that entire town was moved to Virginia, Minn. where Larson attended high school.
He quit school to join the army when World War One was declared. He went and fought in France and was wounded. When he was released from the hospital, he enrolled in the University of Minnesota where he majored in Dairy Manufacturing Business and received a masters degree in Biological Chemistry.
Larson began his career in the dairy business with his brother Martin and his cousin Oscar Floten. He worked in and owned dairy plants all over Minnesota, in such communities as Virginia, St. Paul, Cambridge and Stillwater. He also worked for the Kraft Cheese Company in Decatur, Indiana.
As the owner of the Snowland Dairies in Stillwater, Larson started the first wintertime “Ice Cream Socials” in 1950. The first social was held at the Boom Site and the temperature that day was minus 29 below. Besides the cold temperatures, a foot of snow had recently fallen. Still, between 600 and 700 people turned out to have a taste of the cold ice cream. The following year, the temperatures soared to 30 above zero. “We were hoping for about 10 below zero weather,” Larson told a St. Paul paper reporter, “we’re plenty hardy around here.” In 1953, the event even had a Time Magazine photographer come out and shoot the events of the day.
Want to keep reading? Grab the Aug. 11, 2017, edition of The Gazette, at newsstands through Aug. 17. Subscribe to The Gazette to read Peterson’s column in its entirety each week. Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. Contact him atmailto:[email protected].