People talk about history but you rarely see it unless viewed through another’s eyes. I recently had such an experience when I spoke with Gladys Krohn now of Williams, Minnesota but a former Viking, Minnesota resident. She escorted me by phone on a tour of Viking. This is a tour of geography and time so I will try to keep you oriented to both. Don’t feel bad if you fall behind; just make sure you fall back in time.
Gladys Krohn was born Gladys Greenley to Olaf and Ida Greenley in 1910. Gladys, her brother Floyd and their mother left Viking soon after Gladys’ birth to protect their homestead in Montana from claim jumpers. Gladys’s father, Olaf, had to travel for his new job with the Rumely Oil Pull company so someone had to protect their Montana farm.
Later that decade in 1918 Olaf Greenley died and his family moved back to Viking. Prior to his job with Rumely, Olaf Greenley helped establish the Farmers Co-op Store in Viking around 1910. The Farmer’s store was the new economic center in a town then only five years old. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays would be busy at the Farmer’s Store because that was cream day. Farmers would also bring in eggs, butter and sometimes even wild hay (in the early twenties) which was shipped out via the new railroad. This was a busy little town where you looked both ways prior to crossing the street.
Our tour begins at the Farmer’s Store in 1910 and ends at the Farmer’s store today. To the north of the Farmer’s store was the Styrlund brothers’ store which pre-dated Viking itself. Strylunds moved their store into town just as soon as there was a town in 1905. Across from Styrlund’s was a bank and to the North of the bank was the Franson building. Franson’s building was large and served several purposes.
Hans Olson’s telephone exchange shared space with several apartment’s upstairs while downstairs was a restaurant with extra space for the occasional dance. Cross the street south and you’d be at the lumber yard or Frank Hanson’s service station which he started in 1930. Cross the tracks from there and you’d be at the stockyard or one of Viking’s four elevators.
The farmer’s store shared it’s block with Nordgard’s store, Ed Sorenson’s hotel, a livery stable and finally Hegg’s blacksmith shop. Gladys Greenley married Alec Krohn in 1931 and they operated a garage and cattle trucking business just North of Styrlund’s store until 1941 when they left for Williams, Minnesota. I am old enough (39) to remember the Farmer’s store which is now the Viking Café and is where we‘ll end our tour, with coffee and pie.
Viking viewed by eyes that grew up with the town is much different than Viking today. Viking is now a quiet little bedroom community with a remarkable past and a quietly hopeful future.