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Lind: Eight is still enough for Ulen, Minn., family

There were eight brothers and sisters in this family years ago on a farm near Ulen, Minn. Today they're still a family of eight, and then some, because they're all living, they range in age from 84 to the kid who is 70, they're all married to the...

Ted and Pat Tinjum
Ted and Pat Tinjum. Special to The Forum

There were eight brothers and sisters in this family years ago on a farm near Ulen, Minn.

Today they're still a family of eight, and then some, because they're all living, they range in age from 84 to the kid who is 70, they're all married to their original spouses and they have kids and grandkids galore.

This is the Tinjum family.

Farmer marries teacher

Their parents were Theodore "Ted" and Signe Tinjum, both of whose parents came from Norway.

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Ted farmed all his life at Ulen, other than when he was in the Army in France during World War I.

Signe, of Minneapolis, learned to play the organ when she was 16, so when she came to Ulen to teach, she became the organist at Atlanta Lutheran Church of rural Ulen and gave piano and organ lessons.

She met Ted, they married and they had these eight children:

  • Helen, now 84, wife of Loren Geiszler, Moorhead, for 65 years. She worked for the Veterans Administration.
  • Eleanor, 82, married to Wil Leibbrand for 57 years and living in Hastings, Minn., was a nurse.
  • James Clayton, 81, Moorhead, who likes to list both of his names, worked for Dan Dugan Inc. He and his wife, Marilyn, have been married for 56 years.
  • Ingeborg, 77, a former teacher, and her husband, Jim Magnuson, live in Canyon Country, Calif. They’ve been married 50 years.
  • Bruce, 76, farmed and was in manufacturing. He and Linda, his wife of 48 years, live on the family farm at Ulen.
  • Rodger, 74, owns Tinjum Appraisal in Detroit Lakes, Minn., where he lives with his wife, Marilyn. They have been married 49 years.
  • Virginia, 72, worked for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. She and her husband, Jerry Johnson, live in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have been married 52 years.
  • Theodore “Ted” Jr., 70, is a consultant for Ara Mark Corp. He and Pat have been married for 47 years and live in Clarkston, Wash.

The siblings have 26 children among them, plus many grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Their parents have died: Ted in 1969 at age 76, Signe in 2001 at 96.

Cold walk to school

Now, over to Big Sister Helen, who, through her daughter Denise Lakeman of Fargo, relays memories of this close-knit family growing up during the Depression.

They all attended their dad's school, District 48, and all graduated from Ulen High School. Three of the boys were in the service.

Despite the Depression, Helen says, "We were happy; we had a good home and parents.

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"We had cattle, pigs, horses and poultry to care for. We worked hard and had fun as a cohesive family.

"Our parents weren't strict," she says, "but they had expectations; (but) they let us fly on our own when we were young adults."

Their parents and others organized the Walworth Willing Workers 4-H club, and the kids were active in it, having many projects and going to the county fair in Detroit Lakes, riding in the back of a grain truck, which was "the highlight of the year," Helen says.

Their farm didn't have electricity, running water, a radio, a daily newspaper or a car for years.

The kids usually walked to school. Once it was 40 below. That day their dad picked them up after school with horses and a sled. After all, by then it was storming.

Music and memories

The kids made their own fun: playing ball, house, cards and checkers or sliding down a hill on a piece of cardboard in the winter. They'd play croquet and hide and seek in the cornfield with their cousins. And always, there was music, with Mom on the organ and sometimes an uncle playing the fiddle.

When their parents held parties, the adults would play whist and sometimes the kids would dance.

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"Our world was our neighborhood," Helen says. Their school was two miles away, their church three. "We didn't get much farther then Ulen or Flom, and they were six miles from home."

For her large family, their mom backed eight to 10 or more loaves of bread each week, keeping the flour in a metal garbage can. That led the kids to wonder why Buffalo (Minn.) State Park, with all of its garbage cans, had so much flour.

The memories roll on for Helen: of attending free outdoor movies in Flom while sitting on blankets; of the Atlanta Lutheran Luther League ice cream social every summer; of an uncle driving his Model T Ford into a ditch but driving right out again, with one of the girls sitting on his lap (no seat belts then).

The eight Tinjum siblings will never forget those years when they didn't have much in the way of material things. But they had something better: each other.

And they still do.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

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