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Lind: Mail pours in about photo

Readers help fill in details about Ansley Co.

Ansley Co. Inc.
This is the mystery photo that ran in the Jan. 27 Forum. The location is Breckenridge, Minn., sometime in the late 1940s. Special to The Forum

Readers help fill in details about Ansley Co.

If that new guy in the White House in Washington needs reliable information, Neighbors suggests he check with Forum readers.

Case in point: The photo at right.

Diane Widhalm of Fargo found it in her possessions, wondered about the man's name and the location, and sent it to Neighbors, which ran a short piece about it.

And the replies came in, big time, with the answers.

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The business was the Ansley Co. Inc., Fargo, which had a Surge dairy equipment franchise. It had branch offices in several communities, including Breckenridge, Minn., where this photo was taken.

The owners were Ben and Lyla Ansley, and the man in the photo was Orren Lovaas, one of their employees.

Jerry Sullivan, formerly of Fargo and now of Bella Vista, Ark., says he used to work for Ben and Orren, both now deceased.

Some of the other employees Jerry remembers were Vern Petrie, Kelly Gandrude and Conrad Johnson.

Ron McLean of Fargo grew up across the street from Ben and Lyla Ansley in Fargo, and says their son Brad Ansley later ran the business. Brad's son Rob Ansley is the current clerk of the federal court in Bismarck.

Ron says Ben and Lyla were active in the Presbyterian church. Ben died at the age of nearly 100. He was, Ron says, "a great man."

Neighbors contacted Brad, now of Escondido, Calif., who confirmed this information, and added some more.

His dad started the business in 1937, selling electric power plants and wind chargers to farmers who didn't have electric power yet. He added the Surge franchise in 1938.

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Ben set up stores in Breckenridge, Detroit Lakes and Twin Valley, Minn., and Valley City and Lisbon, N.D.

In the late 1950s, the company moved to West Fargo, and Brad took it over. The business was moved to Mandan, N.D., in the late 1970s. Since then the business has changed both ownership and services.

Incidentally, Brad says he and his wife still have an old Surge milker they use as a planter.

Lynn Nelson of Buckeye, Ariz., daughter of Ben and Lyla, writes that "Our mother (who died in 1983) worked in the office, and it was very tough for her to convince some of the men who came in for parts or help that she indeed could help them. She was a farm girl herself and took great pains to learn the parts and stock they had in the office."

Jim Skaurud of Twin Valley, Minn., was a first cousin of Orren Lovaas. As to Ben Ansley, Jim says: "He was quite a character. He always had people laughing."

Glenis Jerger of Moorhead says Ben installed a Surge three-stall milking parlor on his farm near Barnesville, Minn., in 1953.

Another Ansley employee, Cliff Steinweg, serviced the equipment, Glenis says.

Others writing in about the picture were Gary Klemisch and Ron Frannea, both of Moorhead.

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Uncle Jim's

What about the Breckenridge café in the picture? Well, David Langenwalter of Fargo writes that it was Uncle Jim's Café, on Minnesota Avenue.

Veterinarian Terry Boldingh of Breckenridge says the café "was one of the finest Breckenridge has known over the past 50 or 60 years. It started as a tiny hamburger shop after its owner, Jim Adams, was discharged from the Navy following World War II."

The Surge building, meanwhile, was sold about 1953 to veterinarians George and Fred Larson. Terry joined the practice in 1963 and bought the practice in 1965. The building later became the Boldingh Insurance Agency operated by Terry's father, John, and also housed Helen's Beauty Shop and an insurance agency operated by Brian Neppl.

The café was sold to Myron Krause but was destroyed in a fire. The site now is part of the parking lot for Jubilee Foods.

"Legend tells us that in an earlier life," Terry says, "the building was a site for the production of distilled beverages when such beverages were frowned upon."

Back to the café, about which Cliff Hermes of Wahpeton, N.D., says "the boys uptown" say also was known as the Hamburger Inn.

Marv Buus of Fargo says he grew up in Wahpeton in the 1930s and '40s, and that the Hamburger Inn "was a very popular eating place in the Wahpeton-Breckenridge area."

Now back to Lovaas, and a note about him from Mary Ann Scheffler of Barnesville. "In the early 1950s," she says, "he called on my parents to supply them with Surge products, which revolutionized their milking-by-hand operation.

"It was probably in the late 1970s or so that I met Mr. Lovaas again at my place of employment in Fargo (Hektner-Lybeck-Erickson Insurance), and I brought up the fact he used to call on my parents. He remembered them and I remember his statement, 'Friendships are like a garden; they need to be cultivated in order to grow.' "

Then she adds, "Thanks for the memories." To which Neighbors adds thanks to the many who wrote in about this photo out of the past.

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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