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50’s emigrants found romance, jobs, home, and business ownership Right on Lake Street

Video of Chris Oien’s interview with Carol Blair is online at http://youtu.be/La5zNYQz84g

By Carol Blair as told to Chris Oien

Carol and her husband were involved with Soderberg’s Floral at 3305 E. Lake St. for almost 50 years, and owned it for 30 of them. She remembers how they got started there and what it was like. To see the full interview, go to www.youtube.com/visitlakestreet

My name is Carol Blair, my husband is Lyle Eugene Blair, sometimes call him Gene. My husband started working at Soderberg’s in 1957, and we got married in 1959. He graduated from high school in 1956 from Huntley, Minnesota. He stayed on the farm and helped his dad, and got a chauffeur’s license so he could take grain or cattle to market. He worked for one year and came up in the fall of 1957 to go to North Central Bible College. He was looking for work for about a week, and they had a bulletin board at the school where they listed job opportunities. So his roommate came in and said, could I have a ride to Soderberg’s Floral, they’re looking for a driver. Both of them ended up going in and talking to the Soderbergs. After a little discussion, the Soderbergs told them, one of you guys come back, we don’t care which one. On the way back to the school, they discussed the situation that my husband had a car and his roommate didn’t, and he had a chauffeur’s license, so it fell to my husband to start working there.

In 1958, I graduated from high school in Menomonie, WI and came to the city to go to North Central Bible College, and met my husband. The first time he asked me for a date, I was over in the lounge with a bunch of other students. He came in and made an announcement. “I have a delivery to make out by Excelsior, anybody like to go?” And I thought, yeah I’d kind of like to go, but I’d rather be asked personally, so I just sat there and didn’t say anything. He turned and left the room, then came back and said to me, Duane and his girlfriend will go too, would you like to go with me? So our first date was delivering flowers.

In December 1964, Mr. Soderberg passed away, so Gene and another one of the fellows in the store more or less co-managed the place. Mrs. Soderberg at that time sold the store to her son Jerry, her oldest of three kids. He didn’t have any interest in the business, he was a lawyer downtown. I think my husband said in the next six years, he came in the store twice. During this time, 1971 or 1972, my husband worked for a year and a half at a machine shop, and it was very different. It was: bell rang you went to work, bell rang you stopped and ate a sandwich, bell rang and you went back to work. He was more of a people person, so he went back to Soderberg’s in 1972. In 1976, they asked him if he’d be interested in buying the business. My husband and I talked about it, and said if we sell our house, because in 1967 we had bought a house a block away, then we could buy the business. The next morning, the son Jerry’s wife called and said, don’t worry about selling the house, we’ll take it as down payment on the property here, so that’s how we ended up buying the flower shop.

If I had life to do over again, and tried to choose a job, I couldn’t think of a better place, because we enjoyed it. You never knew what would happen. Some people say their jobs are boring, and on holidays we’d get tired, but we were never bored.

A direct link to the video of Carol Blair is available on the Visit Lake Street Blog

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