Elsinger reflects on childhood memories

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Marge (Blaser) Elsinger was born in 1938 on a farmstead along the Wild Rice River in Western Minnesota. She grew up in a resourceful household and carried those lessons with her throughout her adult life. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Marge (Blaser) Elsinger was born in 1938 on a farmstead along the Wild Rice River in Western Minnesota. She is the middle child of 11 siblings born to Adolf and Laura Blaser. "Most of the children were delivered by my grandmother, Wilhelmina, who attended Omaha School of Midwifery in the late 1890s, after she had children of her own. That was pretty rare at the time," Marge shared. 

Resourceful family

Marge's mother, Laura, was a strong, resourceful woman. "One of my favorite stories is about her always buying the largest pairs of women's underwear at the general store.  When the owner finally got curious enough to ask why such a petite woman needed such large under garments, she matter of factly answered, 'Since all of the underwear are priced the same, I buy the largest one and am able to make 3-4 pairs out of the fabric and elastic,'" she chuckled. 

Marge learned from her mother at a very young age to not waste anything that could be re-purposed. She noted, "Every torn coat and frayed shirt had at least a few good pieces to be used in making a rug or blanket. My mother tied her quilts together with yarn, there was not much time for fancy quilting when you had 11 children and hired help to feed."

Marge's father, Adolf was also a very resourceful man, "We lived next to the Wild Rice River. My father supplemented our diet with fish, and wild game, and made money for the family trapping mink and selling pelts," she noted. 

Close family ties

The country school Marge and her siblings attended was a major walk across the fields. Her daughter, Gina Dahlstrom-Osburn, shared, "Some of the harrowing stories my mother has told our family about walking through deep snow and winter storms make me feel whimpy for feeling compelled to watch, or walk my son the half a block to his elementary school!" 

"I love getting together with my mother's family, especially her sisters. Whenever we travel to Northern Minnesota I know there will be reminiscing about their lives in the country during the 30s and 40s. So many great stories and lots of laughter!" Gina exclaimed. 

Marriage and family

Marge graduated from Mahnomen High School in Minnesota. She recalled, "I headed down to Iowa after high school. My sister, Lorraine Hefel, was already living near Buena Vista. My girlfriends and I never missed a dance at Lakeside," she added.

Marge met and married Frank Dahlstrom, whose parents were Ruth and Melvin Dahlstrom. They owned Dahlstrom's Jewelry on River Park Drive in Guttenberg.   Gina commented, "They were wonderful grandparents and were so instrumental during our childhood."

An auto accident claimed her husband's life leaving her a widow with five children to raise. "It was a rough time, but I found a job at Muters, a speaker factory in Guttenberg," said Marge.

Several years later Marge met Andy Elsinger Jr. "I quickly knew we were meant to be. We started a new life together," she said. "In addition to a new, wonderful set of grandparents, Irene and Andy Elsinger Sr.," Gina added.

Quilting and baking

Marge's new mother-in-law, Irene, taught her the art of detailed hand quilting. She explained, "Irene had been a 4-H leader for years and was an excellent teacher, and I became her dedicated student."  

Gina proudly shared, "I am amazed at my mother's talent with color and design! One of her favorite, and mine, is a pattern often called 'stack and whack'. You use a printed fabric, the bolder the better, and arrange the triangles to create a kaleidoscope effect. It is quite stunning!"

Marge is sheltering in place during the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. "I am currently spending quite a bit of down time finishing projects and starting new ones," she commented. 

"We are grateful for the gifts she shares with us. I just finished two baby quilts for my granddaughters under her tutelage," said Gina. 

Gina and Marge can be found at Guttenberg's Farmers Market from May through October. Gina further noted, "Mom also makes fantastic jams, pies and baked goods to sell at Farmer's Market, along with my handcrafted jewelry, fresh produce and homemade granola. It is wonderful to share these things with her and such a blessing." 

Marge's legacy includes 19 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. In closing, Marge shared a few words of wisdom, "You usually regret what you don't do, more than what you have done."

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