September 2020 Newsletter

The latest in our series…

The People of the Park:

Owen & Roberta Olson

By Dale Dauten

That’s the Olsons in the photo below, at a Valentine’s Day Dance. It’s a fitting place to start their story because that’s where they met, at a dance. They were both students at Minot State University – Owen a sophomore and Roberta just a freshman. Owen recalled, “I went to the dance with the intention of finding a date for homecoming.” He asked Roberta to dance and, as she puts it, “We’ve been together ever since.”

The two got married on a date that’s easy to remember: “We went to sign the papers,” Owen recounted, “and the priest said, “Look here” and pointed to the date on the paperwork. It hadn’t occurred to us but it was 6/6/66. Now if anyone asks how long we’ve been married, I just say, ‘We were married on 6-6-66 – you do the math.’”

But let’s back up and take a look at how fate led the two of them to that dance at Minot State. (By the way, bonus points if you know the mascot for Minot State. Double bonus for the mascot’s name. Answer at end.)

Like so many folks at The Resort, if you look back at their lives, there are farms involved. Roberta grew up on a North Dakota family farm near Rolla and while Owen wasn’t a farm boy, his dad worked in Wildrose for the Farmers’ Union, a co-op that supplied farmers.

Owen was one of four siblings, while Roberta was one of nine. Owen grew up playing sports and was a three-sport athlete in high school — basketball, baseball and tennis. Roberta devoted herself to music, and with her sisters formed a group akin to the Lennon Sisters, performing at county fairs. There were echoes of those youthful passions throughout their lives.

Both went straight to teaching jobs after college, different schools but in the same county. Roberta taught music and Owen taught history, plus he coached basketball and baseball. Within a couple of years, however, both were able to switch to teaching jobs in Rolla and that’s where they stayed. Along the way they also bought a variety store, a five-and-dime in the Ben Franklin mold, selling toys, clothes, candy and the like. Then they bought a Radio Shack franchise, back in the days when Radio Shack was at the leading edge of personal computer innovation, the Apple store of its day.

(That’s Radio Shack’s TRS-80, Model II, one like this writer worked on for several years.)

Owen and Roberta both ended up being in demand elsewhere. One day a friend who owned the local Ford dealership came into the store and said, “I need a computer, but I need a Sales Manager more.” And Owen was off a new phase of his career.

And then there was the night that starts with…

Two guys are sitting in a bar…

As Owen recalled that night, “It was bar talk. I met a guy who was the Superintendent for the St. John schools and he said, ‘I need a music teacher.’ Turned out he needed a certified music teacher to meet his accreditation. I told him about Roberta and he said, ‘Name your schedule. Name the money.’” And that’s how Roberta ended up teaching on the nearby Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. She spent 32 years there, and “loved every minute.” She said of her music teaching, “My goal was to let the students forget their troubles for an hour.”

(Photos from Turtle Mountain: The land, the high school and a turtle made of wheel rims)

Meanwhile, Owen spent over a decade at the Ford dealership before retiring. But retirement didn’t take that first time. As he told us, “I had too much time on my hands. I saw an ad for a History teacher at the high school on the reservation and I thought, ‘I’ll apply and if I get it, fine. If not, fine.’ Turned out I was the only one to apply. I stayed 11 years and then retired.” And Roberta retired, too.

As for their family life during those careers, the Olsons had four children. Those four ended up scattered around the country and with strikingly different careers: There’s…

a daughter who’s a lawyer about to move to San Diego,

a daughter who works on the “Judge Judy” show in the L.A. area,

a son in St. Louis who is in sales, working with a company that makes slot machines for casinos,

and a son who’s an engineer with Abbot Labs in Minnesota.

Lastly, let’s end by going full circle, back to the dances. Owen and Roberta are familiar faces at The Resort dances and, at the Wednesday jam sessions. Roberta tells us, “Owen is known as the man who dances with all the ladies. That’s because he loves to dance and I’m up front, playing piano.” (Even though Roberta trained on classical music, she plays by ear, so she’s picked up gospel and country-western and has even learned to love both.)

As for how the Olsons came to The Resort, that old Resort magic once again comes into play…

The Olsons retirement plan included buying a condo on a golf course. However, before they retired, they heard about a friend who travelled the country and was headed back to The Resort to buy a place. Owen said to him, “If you find a good deal, give me a call.” And the friend called to say he’d found a deal on brand new place that the owner had decided not to move into. Photos followed, the Olsons talked it over and concluded, “Let’s go try it. If we don’t like it, we’ll sell.” And you know what’s coming: they loved The Resort and its people, and forgot about that condo on the golf course.

(Photo below: Owen and Roberta on the deck of the home of one of the daughters in California)

ANSWER: They are the Minot State Beavers, and the mascot is called “Buckshot.”