Love is the only time when it isn’t good to outnumber the opposition. Viking, Minnesota was acutely aware of this fact in 1948. Viking was reported that year as the “Bachelor Capital of Minnesota” in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune. The guys were winning a losing game as they outnumbered the women by a ratio of one hundred to one. The “batches” didn’t let this fact get them down for as Pastor C.T. Thompson reported to the Tribune reporter, “They are a cagey bunch.”
The bachelors of Viking formed a club with Pastor C.T. Thompson as president. It wasn’t a lonely hearts or a sour grapes club either; they just got together for supper and coffee. The high school girls of Viking would serve a favorite meal for all the singles from twenty one year-old Stanley Larson to eighty one year old Dan McMillan. The high school girls never married the bachelors as they were expected to move on to big dreams in a bigger town. I love the pictures that were included with this story. George and Gus Burg were known as the Gold Dust twins and lived quite happily with George at the stove while Gus manned the broom and sewing needle. Some of these good-looking young men from the late forties have become good looking seniors today. I recognized Earl Erickson and Leroy Gustafson from the pictures who eventually married-up to Joyce Hanson and Edna Eggen respectively.
Ruth Peterson read the story about the Viking bachelors in the tribune. She was a young, single woman living in Minneapolis in 1948. Ruth’s friends Elvira and Laura urged the young lady from Akeley, Minnesota to look into this source of good men. Ruth wrote Pastor Thompson who hand-picked a few young men but Ruth never heard from the shy, country boys. She did receive a letter from Tillie Sustad, however. Tillie said her son, Leroy, was sick with scarlet fever and was unable to correspond at the time.
Leroy got better and he and Ruth Peterson soon began using stamps at an alarming rate. Leroy Sustad soon traveled to St Paul for a friend’s graduation but spent the rest of the Memorial Day week-end with Ruth Peterson. The young couple rode the Ferris wheel at Excelsior Park, had dinner at Hasty Tasty and even shared a picnic lunch at the Red Rock bible camp. On June 15th, 1949 Leroy Sustad held onto Ruth’s hand after their wedding ceremony and wouldn’t loosen his grip until he passed away last summer, just shy of their fifty-fifth anniversary.
The Bachelors of Viking are no more, they’re now married or have passed away. Ruth Sustad still lives at the Sustad farm where I enjoyed our visit. So what is still there after all the memories and romantic stories have been told? It’s the love, there’s still love in a small town. (if you like to see the original Minneapolis Tribune article upon which this column is based, please go to http://grantnelson00.tripod.com/ruralreflections2/id76.html