One of Bob Lind's mysteries has been solved
In 2019, two years before the beloved Forum columnist died, he was trying to solve a mystery about the identities of some military men in a photo. That mystery has now been solved and it yielded a couple of surprises.
FARGO – Over the past year or so, I’ve really enjoyed hearing from some of you Bob Lind fans out there.
Anyway, some of you have taken the time to write to me and mention that you had been working with Bob on this story or that story. Some asked if I could do a follow-up. (As we announced shortly after his death in August of 2021, my column "Back Then" would do its best to pick up the torch Bob had carried all of those years - sharing stories about the past and about interesting neighbors we’ve met along the way.)
A couple of months ago, The Forum received an email about a column Bob wrote in 2019. In the column, Bob wrote about Kimberly Paulson-Schulman, formerly of Fargo and now of Burbank, Calif., and how she found a photo in a thrift shop in Burbank. She was intrigued because it had been framed in Fargo. So Paulson-Schulman wondered who these men were. Was one of them a Fargo native just like her? She sent the photo to Bob to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Who is the Fargoan here? Can you spot him?
Fast forward a couple of years, and Forum editor Matt Von Pinnon sent me an email from someone named Ian Watts, who had found some answers for Bob. Watts is a scholar and writer with an interest in the American Merchant Marine.
In the email to The Forum he wrote:
“The back of the photo just surfaced on the Facebook Group: US Merchant Marine of WWII by Rebecca Fenneman. The photo is from the ship SS Edward Livingston taken on 4/28/1943.”
On his website, Watts took a closer look at why some of the men in the photo have different uniforms and insignias. Even better, after the back side of the photo surfaced he was able to identify all of the men in the photo.
While the mystery was solved over the identities of the military men, their branches of services, and the name of their ship, we weren’t quite sure about the Fargo connection. Again, this photo was found in Burbank, California, but had been framed in Fargo.
Who is the Fargoan here? Can you spot him?
Of course, I wasn’t able to figure it out just from looking at him. But I did the next best thing. I looked at the names on the back of the photo.
Does someone have a name popular in this area?
The first name that caught my eye belonged to the man in the upper left, Edward Davies. Davies is a popular name in Fargo. The only problem? This man was a member of the Royal Navy, who, because the ship was in Australia when the photo was taken, was aboard. I crossed him off the list.
But believe it or not, I wouldn’t have to look much longer. The next name that sounded kind of “Fargo” to me was Gordon Sten Hanson. He’s the nice-looking guy, second from the left in the front row. The name sounded like someone who might have spent a night or two at the Sons of Norway or loved eating his grandma’s lefse and krumkake at Christmas.
Lo and behold, my instincts were right. Hanson was the Fargoan. (I won’t go into great detail about how proud of myself I was at this mastery of deductive reasoning. And since I mostly work from home these days, the only ones who witnessed my celebration were my two dogs and they seemed wholly unimpressed).
Anyway, after further research, I learned that Hanson was born in Missouri in 1922, but moved to Fargo when he was a child because both of his parents were osteopaths and they set up a practice here.
He attended Fargo Central High School, where one photo of him in a school play foreshadows his future career in the military. He played Captain Jerome in “The Gypsy Rover” his senior year.
Following graduation in 1939, he joined the Merchant Marine and was a deck cadet when the earlier photo was taken.
After World War II, Gordon’s parents, Harold and Mildred, moved to southern California to start a practice there. The rest of the family followed.
Census records show Gordon living with his grandparents in California in 1950, but the clues dried up after that. I was unable to find any more information about what he did for a living or where he lived for the next 50 years. He died on Feb. 10, 2000, in Burbank. He never married, but was survived by his sister.
But this story held a few more secrets. It turns out that Gordon’s sister was a groundbreaking North Dakota athlete. I’ll tell her story next week in Back Then.