The Farmers Coop and a String Bikini — Part I


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~ Submitted by Marti (Martha Gunderson) Carlson

My very pleasant baptism into the working world started the summer of 1966 following high school graduation when I reported to the Farmers Cooperative* Company in Rolfe, Iowa – in a dress and heels!

The Farmers Co-Op office building where I (Marti) worked during the summer of 1966.  (Permission granted by the Pocahontas Historical Society.)

The Farmers Coop office building where I (Marti) worked during the summer of 1966. (Click photo to enlarge.) **

The Rolfe Coop has always been a vital hub of economic activity in the community with its majestic elevators and a steady stream of grain-brimmed wagons and trucks
crossing the huge scale to weigh their bounty.  I had visited the Coop many times with Deane Gunderson, my dad and a farmer, but to work there was a completely different experience.

All the employees were male with the exception of Mabel Forsythe, a lovely older lady from Plover who kept the books with the most magnificent penmanship, an art now lost.  I assisted Mabel with many and varied administrative duties.

Fred McKim led the gang whose members included LeRoy Schoon, Kenny Bennett, Joe Boeckholt, and Nellie (Lawrence) Nelson, who always had a glint in his eye with a yarn or joke ready to tell.  All the “boys” walked a fine line, between being chivalrous to us gals and being their boisterous jovial masculine selves, despite the heat and toil of the day.

Click here to go to Part II.


* For those of you who may not know, a farmers’ cooperative is a coalition of farmer members conducting mutually beneficial business for the growing and harvesting of their products, the purchasing of supplies at the lowest cost, and the sale of their produce at the best price.

** Pocahontas County, Iowa, History, compiled in 1981, copyright 1982, Pocahontas County Historical Society, Rolfe, Iowa,  p. 146.  Permission to post granted by the Pocahontas County Historical Society.

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5 Responses to “The Farmers Coop and a String Bikini — Part I”

  1. Clara Says:

    Martha: It was fun to read Part I and, even though I already know the outcome, I’m looking forward to Part II.

    My earliest recollections of being inside the elevator were when I was in grade school, perhaps junior high, and after school would go with Sharon Wickre to Climax (later the Co-Op)which her parents ran. On the west side of the office was a smaller office where Sharon spent her after-school hours. We played there until nearly closing time and Sharon and her parents went home.

  2. Marti Says:

    I had forgotten about the Wickres and the Climax. I’m thinking the side office you spent time is where my office was.

  3. Peg Says:

    Marti, I’D TOTALLY FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOU WORKING AT THE COOP!!! Yes! That would be QUITE the introduction to the working world! Like me starting to drive on the CLUNKER ’57 Chevy: If I could master that car, I could drive anything! If you could maneuver the Coop, you could work anywhere! And you’ve proved it all these years! Dress and heels, eh? Unlike Clara, I don’t know what’s coming. Should be good!

  4. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    I very vaguely remember Marti working at the Coop. As in, extremely vaguely. Marti was at the Coop with her “grown up” job while I was eleven years old still being a little girl (although I’m sure I thought I was all grown up at the time!).

  5. Margaret McKim Says:

    We have especially enjoyed reading this segment. Perhaps I told you earlier, Fred was in Des Moines recovering from knee replacement surgery, or we would surely have attended your celebration of life for Deane. Fred tells many interesting stories about Coop experiences with the Gunderson family. I’m sure he learned many of life’s lesson from Deane. We both have fond memories of the summer Marti worked at the Coop.
    It was my pleasure recently, to visit – around 10 one night – with Clara’s husband. They were at the lake house. We had been out for the evening and upon returning home, I read Louise’s story about the “Taco House”. Our son and his family love that place and since we live within walking distance, we are very familiar with it. Mr. Hoover probably has a different thought about the late night call.
    Great to read all of your comments.

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